Government Shutdown

Technology lends a twist to shutdown scenario

text messager

Does checking email break the rules of furlough? (Stock image)

Today's technology could complicate a government shutdown in an unexpected way: the question of what constitutes voluntary service by furloughed employees.

By law, employees who are furloughed cannot perform their duties on a volunteer basis. The exact wording of the law is: "[A]n officer or employee of the United States Government or of the District of Columbia government may not accept voluntary services for either government or employ personal services exceeding that authorized by law except for emergencies involving the safety of human life or the protection of property."

The increasing mobility of the federal workforce, however, raises a question of what may or may not constitute "volunteer services," as many employees can perform tasks such as checking email remotely. That wasn't possible during the last government shutdown in the mid-1990s.

As of midweek, officials at the Office of Personnel Management were reviewing legal requirements and shutdown plans. According to OPM guidelines, reiterating the law, federal agencies cannot accept volunteer services from an employee unless otherwise authorized by law.

The last time a government shutdown threatened, in 2011, the White House estimated that 800,000 of the approximately 2.1 million federal employees would be deemed non-exempt from furlough. Then, lawmakers reached an 11th-hour deal to avert a shutdown.

About the Author

Reid Davenport is an FCW editorial fellow. Connect with him on Twitter: @ReidDavenport.

The Fed 100

Read the profiles of all this year's winners.

Featured

  • Then-presidential candidate Donald Trump at a 2016 campaign event. Image: Shutterstock

    'Buy American' order puts procurement in the spotlight

    Some IT contractors are worried that the "buy American" executive order from President Trump could squeeze key innovators out of the market.

  • OMB chief Mick Mulvaney, shown here in as a member of Congress in 2013. (Photo credit Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

    White House taps old policies for new government makeover

    New guidance from OMB advises agencies to use shared services, GWACs and federal schedules for acquisition, and to leverage IT wherever possible in restructuring plans.

  • Shutterstock image (by Everett Historical): aerial of the Pentagon.

    What DOD's next CIO will have to deal with

    It could be months before the Defense Department has a new CIO, and he or she will face a host of organizational and operational challenges from Day One

  • USAF Gen. John Hyten

    General: Cyber Command needs new platform before NSA split

    U.S. Cyber Command should be elevated to a full combatant command as soon as possible, the head of Strategic Command told Congress, but it cannot be separated from the NSA until it has its own cyber platform.

  • Image from Shutterstock.

    DLA goes virtual

    The Defense Logistics Agency is in the midst of an ambitious campaign to eliminate its IT infrastructure and transition to using exclusively shared, hosted and virtual services.

  • Fed 100 logo

    The 2017 Federal 100

    The women and men who make up this year's Fed 100 are proof positive of what one person can make possibile in federal IT. Read on to learn more about each and every winner's accomplishments.

Reader comments

Thu, Sep 26, 2013

Do you know how much it costs to shut down the government???

Thu, Sep 26, 2013 CA

Shut it down day for day savings of the 18 Trillion debt. Defund Obama Care!

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group