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San Diego federal agencies unlikely to face disruptions due to government shutdown

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Two of the region's largest federal enterprises, military bases and border patrol, are unlikely to face major disruptions in the event of a looming government shutdown that experts say likely is to occur at midnight.

Congress has until then to pass some kind of spending bill to keep the government up and running at full capacity. Many federal agencies would close and hundreds of thousands of government workers will be furloughed if lawmakers miss that deadline.

The House passed a stopgap spending measure on Thursday that would keep the government funded through Feb. 16.

No such deal has been reached in the Senate.

The government considers both military and law enforcement activities as "essential," and therefore San Diego's Navy and Marine Corps bases would remain up and running and inspections would continue at the San Ysidro Port of Entry.

However, pain could be felt at bases like the massive Camp Pendleton, where the federal government employs 1,600 civilians.

Some 64 percent of those are eligible for furlough. In the event of a shutdown, they could be sent home and would not earn money until Congress passes a spending bill. They work in places like the commissary, the military equivalent of a grocery store, and other roles that support the base's average daily population of 85,000, according to Capt. Brian Villiard, a base public affairs officer.

"The base will still be able to maintain essential functions, medical services will be provided," he said. "Everybody who works on this base is vital, but unfortunately sometimes to meet budget constraints we have to identify folks who may have to be furloughed."

Those among the 43,000 service members at Camp Pendleton who are on active duty will continue working, though they would not receive pay for their work during the shutdown until Congress passes a spending measure, according to a Department of Defense memo.

That memo offered broad guidance to the military about how to handle operations in the event of a shutdown. But more specific decisions, including which and how many civilians to furlough, will be left up to each branch. More information about the impact to the civilian workforce would likely not be available until after midnight, according to DOD spokeswoman Maj. Carla Gleason.

"There's still hope that there's not going to be a government shutdown," she said. "There's still time for Congress to pass an appropriation measure."

But some outside observers say the impasse is likely to continue after the clock strikes 12.

"I think it's pretty likely," said political science lecturer Stephen Goggin, who teaches at UC Irvine and San Diego State University. "All the signals coming from DC today appear to be the posturing of who's to blame when the shutdown happens, not solutions of how to prevent it. The bigger question is how long it lasts."

There have been 18 shutdowns since 1976, when the current budgetary rules went into effect.

Ones that occur over the weekend are typically minimally disruptive, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. The longest lasted 21 days in 1996-1997 and resulted from Democratic President Bill Clinton and Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich's failure to reach a deal on tax cuts.

That was one of several that occurred during the 1990s when Clinton was in the White House and Republicans controlled Congress. There were several reforms passed after that which eased some of the chaos of funding gaps, which led to "clear lines" being drawn about how the government will operate during shutdowns, Goggin said.

This latest budget impasse is unprecedented. It would be the first time that a shutdown occurred while one party is under control of both the executive and legislative branches, he said.

During the last shutdown in 2013 National Parks such as the Cabrillo National Monument were shuttered.

Officials will try to keep some parks open in the event of a shutdown, though some services like campgrounds and restrooms will not operate, it was reported.

Social Security checks would still be issued and air traffic control, border patrol and other national security operations would continue.

"The dedicated men and women of (the Department of Homeland Security) are fully prepared to protect the homeland and keep Americans safe should a lapse in government funding occur," department officials said. "Nearly 90 percent of all DHS personnel are considered essential staff and will continue to perform their duties in the event of a government shutdown. We urge Congress to fully fund DHS in order to pay the federal employees on the front lines defending our nation."

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