Agencies recover from shutdown threat

Employees reported to work as usual Monday, with only a shadow of the shutdown threat still overhead

The government had conferences and committee hearings going on today. Federal websites were running, and agencies were tweeting as normal. It’s business as usual across government, despite the fright late last week.

At the National Museum for the American Indian, the IgniteSmithsonian media innovation conference started off without a hitch this morning with participants from multiple federal agencies and from museum executives in Australia, New Zealand and the Netherlands, among others.

Michael Edson, the Smithsonian’s director of Web and new media strategy, did not mention the shutdown in his opening remarks.

“Let’s get this party started,” Edson said shortly after 10 a.m. “We have five or six countries represented, and several galaxies,” he joked.


Related coverage:

After the shutdown battle: What now? 

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Agencies spent a lot of last week getting ready to shut down their operations. At least some of the activity this week will entail undoing those preparations, reports Ed O'Keefe in the Washington Post's Federal Eye blog.

"I won't be able to just come in Monday or Tuesday and hit the ground running," said Danette Woo, quoted in O'Keefe's entry. She's an employee at the Mojave National Preserve in California.

On Capitol Hill, Christopher Shays, co-chairman of the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan, opened up a hearing at 9:30 a.m. as scheduled on non-governmental organizations’ operations in emergency situations.

The government escaped a shutdown emergency that had agency officials and many federal employees, as well as contractors, wondering what would happen. Everyone was waiting for the latest develops. Major television networks had ticking clocks on the TV screen, as the nation waited to see if Congress and the president could come to an agreement. The New York Times wrote that it seemed like the New Year’s Eve countdown. In the last minutes though, House and Senate leaders and the president announced the agreement, and the White House released a statement at 1:59 a.m. April 9 that the president had signed the short-term continuing resolution.

After hearing the announcement, one federal human resources manager simply said, “Thank God.” Now, it’s back to the typical, pressing administrative debates.

And operations continue on throughout government.

“Business as usual Friday, business as usual today,” Michael Stamler, director of the Small Business Administration’s press office, said today.

Like last week, federal employees came back to work today. This time though, they know they will get paid—a major concern a week ago.

“All you can do is call places and see if they understand why you’re going to be late paying bills, that it’s the government and not because you don’t have a job,” said Army Pfc. David Jones told the Associated Press.

Meanwhile, the prospect of a government shutdown prompted many one-of-a-kind ideas from people. There were T-shirts for federal employees labeled as essential or non-essential to their agency's operations. And on GovLoop, Ben Strong, a marketing director Amver Maritime Relations, proposed growing “furlough beards.”

The beards never grew. “I guess the threat of me growing a beard help push Congress to pass a budget!” he wrote April 10.

Employees also posted comments on Facebook regarding the nearly missed government shutdown. Many expressed relief and jubilation, and a few indications of anger and anxiety about the future.

“No government shutdown! Glen Echo Park is open!” wrote the Glen Echo Park Partnership for Arts and Culture, which helps with events at the national park that is based in Maryland.

“We are back on a CR again. This is #7, but who is counting?” wrote a federal employee on Facebook.

One person regretted that the shutdown did not take place. Without the shutdown, it was not possible to “give Americans the chance to see just how non-essential their government is.”

Nevertheless, the funding measure ensures funding only until April 15. On April 13, President Barack Obama will release his plans for reducing the debt. That’s when the next fight over the budget will happen.

About the Authors

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

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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