Intel chief: Shutdown threatens national security

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper is warning that the combination of the government shutdown and previous sequestration spending cuts "seriously damages" the U.S. government's ability to protect its citizens.

"This is not just a Beltway issue. This affects our global capability to support the military, to support diplomacy, to support our policymakers," Clapper said Wednesday while testifying during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. "The danger here, of course, [is] that this will accumulate over time. The damage will be insidious, so each day that goes by the jeopardy increases."

Clapper also warned lawmakers that the financial climate - the worst he's seen in 50 years, he indicated -- has posed a substantial challenge to intelligence community's ability to attract talented employees.

"This is a dreamland for a foreign intelligence service to recruit, particularly as our employees -- already many of whom [are] subject to furloughs driven by sequestration -- are going to have, I believe, even greater financial challenges. So we're spending our time setting up counseling services for employees to help them manage their finances," he said.

Former Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., warned of a similar challenge across the federal government and contracting firms in an interview with earlier this week.

"The brain drain is hard to measure... we lose truly qualified people," Davis said. "A good contracting officer who understands the process, good people like this can walk across the street and make more money." Those consequences are another byproduct of the shutdown that are difficult to measure, but important to consider, he said.

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  • Rebecca Kaplan

    Rebecca Kaplan is a political reporter for