2013-10-11 / Spectrum

Government shutdown, week two

As we come to the end of the second work week of the government shutdown, the news isn’t all bad. Certainly, it isn’t good, but it’s not all bad.

As of Tuesday, there was no end in sight for the shutdown. We still don’t have a budget. But the vast majority of our workforce is back on the job, serving the men and women of Fort Gordon the best they can. That, at least, is good news.

But there’s no reason for celebration; the silver lining of this cloud is paper thin. As virtually all of our civilian employees return to their workplaces, thousands of government employees elsewhere – including some Defense Department employees – remain furloughed. They don’t know when they’ll be recalled; more importantly, they don’t know when they’ll get their next paycheck. And the Americans who depend on the federal government for a variety of services don’t know when, or in some cases if, those services will return to normal.

Even here at Fort Gordon, the return of the workforce hardly means a return to normalcy. Without a budget, supplies can’t be purchased, new contracts can’t be let, old contracts may expire, and services will be affected. Service members planning their move to a new duty station are learning as they go about the impacts on their move. Tuition assistance isn’t available. All of those impacts, and more, will be felt more keenly the longer the shutdown lasts. And frustration is bound to set in.

When you combine a workforce under the strain of repeated furloughs and uncertainty, with a customer base that depends on services that are severely constrained and limited… well, let’s just say there some potential for tempers to flare and bad situations to become worse.

Simply put, don’t let that happen.

Everyone – employees, customers, trainers, trainees, inside and outside the gates, is dealing with the effects of the shutdown in some way. We’re all in this together, and we need to hold it together until the crisis passes. Of course, that’s easier said than done. But it had to be said, and it needs to be done.

One of the most striking aspects of the Fort Gordon community is the deep sense of care and commitment the members of our community have for one another. From the countless small fund-raisers to the endless tales of neighbors helping neighbors, Fort Gordon has always circled its wagons during a crisis to assist and protect one another – whatever the threat to our well-being might be. We need to do so again, to face this current threat. By the way, the threat isn’t the shutdown.

The threat is disunity. Fragmentation. Compartmentalization. Parochialism. The threat is that, under stress, we forget about the people to our left and right - our neighbors, coworkers, customers, service providers, trainers, trainees, leaders and followers who are facing the same anxiety that we’re facing.

We’re a community under stress, but we’re a great community. Who’s better at handling it than us?

The shutdown will end at some point, and normalcy will return. In the meantime, things are going to be tough. We’ll need to be tough, too.

But not tough on each other.

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