Government shutdown: Will chaos reign?

Last time, the shift to skeletal crew was disorganized and illogical

Departments' plans for managing a government shutdown may not get the examination needed to prevent agencies from experiencing a disorganized downshift to a skeletal crew, according to a new report.

The Congressional Research Service reported that more expert analysis of the plans, which are required by the Office of Management and Budget, would encourage federal officials to make better arrangements.

“Scrutiny over agency shutdown plans may provide incentives for agencies to improve the quality of the plans, should it become necessary at some point for agencies to execute the plans,” the CRS wrote in the report released Feb. 18.

After a government shutdown in the 1990s, congressional hearings found that the shift to a skeletal crew of essential employees “was, in many instances, disorganized and illogical at best, and oftentimes chaotic,” the report states. CRS was quoting Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), the then-chairman of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee’s Civil Service Subcommittee, during a hearing about the shutdown and the implications for future instances.

Related story:

Government shutdown looms as lawmakers debate funding bill

The CRS also wrote that exposing the shutdown response plans to scrutiny would inform the budget policy debate about the potential effects of closing down the government.

The plans are required by OMB Circular A-11, and they must tell OMB officials how many days it would take to complete a shutdown. As for employees, the plan compares the number of an agency’s employees before launching the plan and how many would be necessary during the shutdown. Agencies must also note the number of employees needed to protect property and life, in terms of health care. Those employees would be exempt from the furlough. Employees may also be exempt if they are involved in the orderly suspension of agency operations, according to the CRS report.

Along with those select employees, the president and his appointees, members of Congress and other legislative workers are also exempted.

Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) introduced a bill Feb. 18 that would keep the president and members of Congress from receiving paychecks when the government is closed.

Moran said his Government Shutdown Fairness Act (H.R. 819) would put top government officials on equal footing with federal employees.

“If we’re going to throw federal employees, including our staffs, out on the street, we should be right there with them,” Moran said. “In the event of a shutdown, members [of Congress] should be eating peanut butter and jelly like everyone else.”

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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Reader comments

Wed, Apr 6, 2011 Bethesda

All this shut down and talk about Government Workers being paid high above the private sector is a bunch of crop. What about paying attention to the low income federal workers that are trying to make it from pay check to pay check. The republicans need to loose their pay for a while and see how hard it is to make it. Everyone is not on the high pay scale in Goverment but there is no mention of it ever. The low income federal workers work hard and long hours and they need to eat and live comfortable as well. Its no time to shut the Government down.

Fri, Feb 25, 2011

I remember the last shutdown. I was working in the D.C. area at the time. I also remember what broke the shutdown and you don't see anyone writing about this. The Federal Judges told Congress if there was no budget for the Federal Government to operate then it was illegal for the Federal Government to detain and hold Federal prisoners. Basically the judges made a threat that Congress couldn't live with. Pass a budget or the doors to prisons would be open and the prisoners let go. Overnight all Federal Law Enforcement had a budget. We were ordered back to work and the night before D.C. was clobbered by the biggest winter storm in a long time. It shutdown D.C. for three days.

Thu, Feb 24, 2011

I remember when the fiscal year ended in June. I suspect that at one time it ended in March. The fact is no matter when it ends Congress will let it slide. They are not injured. The Federal workers are ignored in all this addingg insult to injury our retirement fund was raided to fund the last shut down. I don't know if it was repaid. The country doesn't respect the work the FED employees do because we are muted by law unable to defend ourselves. We would be fired for such a failure to perform.

Thu, Feb 24, 2011

Don't be surprised if Republicans eliminate the back pay of gov workers. In the private sector, the worker is responsible for covering for the time loss during furloughs either through vacation time or loss of salary.

Thu, Feb 24, 2011

Those who were furloughed in the 90's got back pay (for being off) while those of us who were essential and had to work did NOT get any extra for actually working. Nice.

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