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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