Leah Bannon is a federal contractor working for the Information Sharing Environment. She spoke on October 15, 2013, outside the entrance to the U.S. Capitol for members of the House of Representatives.

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My name is Leah Bannon. I work under a contract for the Information Sharing Environment, a federal office working to improve national security information sharing between governmental agencies. I manage the website and social media

The office was created after 9/11. It works to integrate the intelligence communities, to make them more cohesive. We try to improve information sharing between cops on the street and the intelligence community—like national security, homeland security, counter-terrorism—and also between foreign partners and the federal government. We’re trying to improve technical information-sharing tools between state and local governments, police officers, first responders, and the federal government.

We work with a bunch of different contractors on a big team. All told, in my office, there’s about 60 or 70 folks, federal government and contractors, who can’t go to work, who can’t help build information sharing between cops and the federal government.

Our work is important. 9/11 happened because there were a lot of different pieces of information that we couldn’t get together. If we could have put that puzzle together, we could have prevented 9/11.

I think it goes beyond that, though. Improving information sharing among law enforcement agencies helps make our government more efficient. It helps make our cops safer if they have access to information about people on the street. If we improve information sharing with Indian country, and help them get access… It’s a lot safer for them if they know who they’re pulling over, for example. And my office did that.

It’s scary, you know, that we can’t do our jobs.

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I was born in D.C., at GW [George Washington University] Hospital. When I was five, I moved to Dallas, and when I was 15 we moved back here. So I’ve lived in D.C. almost my whole life.

I went to undergrad here in D.C., at GW. I majored in Geography. I studied complex humanitarian crises. I was focused on human trafficking, on coordinating work to stop human trafficking. But that became less of a priority for the Bush Administration, so I became a contractor and started working on a bunch of different things. But I’ve always worked for the federal government.

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I haven’t been able to work since the government shut down at noon on Tuesday, two weeks ago, but I have actually been really, really lucky. My company has put me on administrative work. I know it’s been tough for the company, especially since we went public recently. But they’ve been floating us until today. Tomorrow I start going negative into my time off, until I hit a max, which will come at the end of this week. Then I get furloughed in one-week slots, one week at a time. So if they bring us back on a Tuesday, for example, I still can’t go back to work until the following Monday, and I don’t get paid for that time.

The hardest part about being a contractor is that, once the shutdown is over, we won’t get reimbursed at all for the time we lose. The feds get reimbursed, hopefully, but we don’t.

It takes a big toll. The other people who don’t get paid, and don’t get reimbursed, are the people I buy sandwiches from, the people I take my dry cleaning to, and the people I interact with every day on the street in D.C. They won’t get their money back. They are the hardest hit. The D.C. government is going to shut down soon. We won’t have trash services.

I actually organized a hackathon yesterday, a civic hackathon for furloughed federal employees. We worked on local D.C. issues, for a national organization called Code for America. We had about 25 feds and contractors working on civic projects, building websites to help D.C., to improve D.C. government, to make it easier for people to find food stamps, all kinds of projects.
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When do I think this will end? I think after today the stock markets will start to be affected significantly by this, because it will be clear that we won’t raise the debt ceiling. I think, at that point, people will start to really freak out. It will start to affect more and more people, and I don’t think the Republicans can get away with putting off Wall Street. So I think we’ll be back.

In the meantime, we’re just going stir-crazy. We just want to get back to work. We want to do our jobs, you know? We care.