Deadlines, deliverables on hold

The government shutdown is taking an early toll on programs that were nearing milestones.

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Yellowstone National Park and the World War II Memorial are among the high-visibility victims of the federal spending stand-off, but less glamorous operations such as the everyday deadlines and deliverables the government runs on are also at risk.

A slew of government reports that help drive decisions in financial markets and among policymakers are on hold during the partial shutdown. Crucial deadlines for a national cybersecurity framework and huge new government IT contracting vehicle have also begun to slip or be put on hold.

The national cybersecurity framework appears to be at risk despite recent assurances that the National Institute of Standards and Technology would meet the Oct. 10 deadline for a preliminary draft.

As late as the waning days of September, NIST officials said the draft would arrive on time, and certainly no later than mid-October. Insiders, including NIST Director Patrick Gallagher, indicated that the expansive work done so far on the framework would suffice for an on-time release, even if the then-feared shutdown came to pass.

But as the shutdown approached, NIST hedged, referring requests for comment to written statements and guidance from the Commerce Department and Office of Management and Budget.

Finally, on Oct. 1, the first day of fiscal 2014, GovInfoSecurity.com reported that a NIST spokeswoman confirmed that work on the framework would be halted.

Data casualties

As the shutdown rolls forward, financial markets, as well as policymakers at the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve, will have to make do without several key economic reports for a while.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has shut down, operating with only a handful of its 2,400 employees. The agency's employment situation report, set for release Oct. 4, will be postponed. BLS wouldn't say when the report would be released, even if funding is quickly restored.

BLS is also responsible for the consumer price index, an update on changes Americans experience in the cost of consumer goods. The next CPI, due Oct. 16, could be affected if no spending deal is reached. Agency researchers who collect information on a variety of consumer goods by visiting supermarkets are on furlough. BLS also calculates the producer price index, which tracks changes in wholesale prices. The PPI, set to be released Oct. 11, could also be delayed.

The Commerce Department has suspended some of its economic data releases, as well. The manufacturers' shipments, inventories, and orders number, due out Oct. 3, was not released. Data on wholesale trade due to be reported Oct. 9 and advance monthly retail sales due out Oct. 11 could also be delayed or skipped.

A deadline for the next iteration of an important government-wide acquisition contract (GWAC) is also on hold until the funding situation is resolved. Proposals from vendors who wanted to be part of NASA's fifth Solutions for Enterprise-Wide Procurement (SEWP V) contract had been due on Oct. 14. On Oct. 2, NASA put the deadline on hold and gave no firm alternative deadline date. SEWP V is valued at $20 billion. The NASA and Goddard Space Flight Center employees that would handle the proposals have been furloughed.

NASA's current SEWP contracting vehicle sells a wide variety of IT products and services to federal users. It remains in operation, NASA said, because its contract staff is funded through December.

The government's delay in outgoing deliverables is mirrored, to a certain extent, by incoming deliverables. Contractors who serve federal customers say they are beginning to see the first signs of what could quickly become a backlog of undeliverable goods for federal customers beginning to stack up in their warehouses.

"Stop orders are going out from federal buyers to vendors, even for things paid for in FY '13," said Larry Allen, president of Allen Federal Partners. "There's no one at federal facilities to receive deliveries of goods and services. Delivery dates are screwed up. Things are getting backed up in warehouses, including IT gear."

A number of federal contractors, who asked not to be named, concurred with the assessment. They said they are feeling the initial effects of the shutdown, but the situation wasn't critical yet. The longer the shutdown drags on, the bigger the problems with logistical deliveries and contracting complications, they said.

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