Get used to shutdown risks

Now that the third government shutdown threat of the year appears to be nearing resolution, agencies are wondering if they should be ready for more such crises.

In some ways, the regularity of these moments is helpful because agencies made contingency plans the first time that they can still use, according to Stan Collender, budget expert at Qorvis Communications.

"There are plans in place that have made this more routine," in comparison to the shutdowns of 1995 and 1996, he said. "It does not have to be like 'The Perils of Pauline.' "

Also, the shift to cloud computing may ease pressures as well because information resources are off-site and continuous operation may be facilitated, he added.

On the other hand, a shutdown would be very disruptive and federal managers and workers anticipating a possible shutdown may need to put forth a tremendous effort to manage day-to-day operations while also coping with preparations for emergency operations, Collender said.

As the shutdown approaches, IT systems and operations would be affected, systems would be converted to emergency modes, and ongoing projects could be delayed, he added.

"Software, training and innovation would be put on hold," Collender said. "If the shutdown goes on for any length, do you lay off people? Do workers get shifted to other duties?"

Budget Director Jacob Lew advised agencies to get used to it.

"Right now, looking at the political debates, there's unfortunately on the part of some  a willingness to force crises, to drive the car to the edge — if not off — the cliff,” he said. “We've seen there is a willingness to shut down the government or to run the risk of default, and to run the government by ultimatums as opposed to negotiations."

About the Authors

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

Camille Tuutti is a former FCW staff writer who covered federal oversight and the workforce.

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Reader comments

Wed, Sep 28, 2011 Ed

Since when is Senator Reid a Republican? The House sends a funding Bill to the Senate and Senator Reid says "No way. You cannot cut anything to cover the costs of FEMA". By the way, when, if ever again, will the Senate pass an FY budget? Every Senator and Congressperson and their office staff should lose 10% per month until a Budget bill is passed.

Wed, Sep 28, 2011

Please shut us down or do not shut us down. The "maybe"s are driving us crazy...

Wed, Sep 28, 2011 Bill

Get used to it? What kind of incompetent thinking is that? We keep hearing that the Federal government needs to act more like the private sector. If that is so, then why does the GOP keep threatening to shut everything down? That's not how the private sector works. That's not how government at any level should work. In my opinion, Congress is supposed to compromise. The problem is the failure of Congress to compromise and approve the funding bills before the fiscal year starts. When this happens, everyone in the House should be thrown out of their jobs and new elections held with the incumbents ineligible. After all, they are the ones who should be out of work, not us. "Getting used to it" is not acceptable.

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