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Federal Eye
Posted at 04:38 PM ET, 04/07/2011

How to shut down the federal government


The US Capitol is bathed in the setting sun and seen in the reflecting pool on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Nov. 12, 2010. (Alex Brandon - AP)
Want to know exactly how to shut down the federal government? We’ve got the official memo explaining it all. (Well, kind of.)

The Office of Management and Budget is instructing agencies to follow this timeline over the weekend if budget negotiations fail to reach an agreement on a new spending measure.

Agencies should be telling workers today whether they will need to work during a shutdown and to reach out to federal worker unions, state and local governments, contractors, congressional committees and other groups to inform them of their plans.

Operations are to continue as normal on Friday, and all federal employees should report for work. But agencies must complete the process of telling workers their fate by the end of the day Friday.

Over the weekend, OMB will issue further instructions if a shutdown begins.

Read the full memo below:

MEMORANDUM FOR THE HEADS OF EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES

FROM: Jacob J. Lew, Director, OMB

SUBJECT:

Planning for Agency Operations During a Lapse in Government Funding

The current Continuing Resolution (CR) expires at the end of tomorrow, Friday April 8, 2011. We are deeply engaged in efforts to reach an agreement that cuts spending in a balanced way so that we do not have a government shutdown that could setback our economic recovery. Negotiations on the budget are continuing, and it remains possible that Congress will reach an agreement by midnight tomorrow on continued funding for the current fiscal year.

Yet at this late hour, responsible management requires that we be prepared if there is a lapse in appropriations. To that end, and pursuant to Section 124 of Circular A-II, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has been providing guidance and coordinating the efforts of the Executive Branch to facilitate appropriate contingency planning in accordance with the provisions of the Antideficiency Act. This Memorandum is being sent in conjunction with these efforts.

As part of the guidance that has been provided to you, OMB has referred agencies to legal opinions issued by the Attorney General and the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) of the Department of Justice, which set forth the legal requirements imposed by the Antideficiency Act during a lapse in appropriations and the guiding standards that agencies should use in making decisions under the Act during a lapse in appropriations. In reviewing existing contingency plans, agency leaders are reminded of the agency’s duty to make the determination of which agency activities qualify as “excepted” functions pursuant to applicable legal requirements, and to make the determination of which employees are needed for the performance of those “excepted” functions on a case-by-case basis.

We have received a number of technical questions about particular matters related to agency operations during a lapse in funding. As a result we have issued Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) documents through the OMB MAX community system. (See Attachments) The F AQ documents provide an overview of relevant legal principles that apply to all government operations, address particular issues with contracts and grants, and answer questions relating to information technology, travel, orderly shutdown, and payment for excepted work.

Earlier this week, we encouraged agencies to reach out to their senior managers on logistical and managerial issues associated with executing agency contingency plans. We know that the current uncertainty and threat of a shutdown is a tremendous burden on Federal employees and therefore, earlier this week, we encouraged agencies to reach out to all employees regarding the possible lapse in appropriations. In addition, the Office of Personnel Management issued an F AQ to assist agencies and employees on personnel issues associated with a funding lapse, posted at http://www.opm.gov/furlough20 11.

We will remain in close communication until this situation is resolved to ensure that the Executive Branch is prepared in case a funding lapse occurs. At this time, agencies should proceed as follows:

Today April 7: You should continue to review your shutdown plans and begin the process of communicating the details of your plans to all employees. Your communications with an employee should address the expected status of that employee under a shutdown: that is, whether the employee would continue to report to work (either because the employee is paid from an appropriation that continues to remain available or because the employee would be needed for the agency’s performance of its “excepted” functions) or instead would be placed on furlough as “non-excepted.” An agency may complete this communication electronically if appropriate. Agencies also are encouraged to conduct appropriate outreach to unions, State, local and tribal governments, grantees, contractors, Congressional committees, and other stakeholders.

Friday April 8: As noted, the current CR expires at midnight tomorrow. Therefore, tomorrow is a normal workday for the Federal Government, and all employees should report to work as normal. Agencies must complete the process of communicating to all employees their status under a shutdown no later than the end of the day tomorrow.

We will advise you tomorrow of further developments, including whether a new CR will likely be enacted. If we inform you tomorrow that a new CR is not likely to be enacted, then you should prepare to implement your shutdown plan beginning on Saturday, April 9. In that case, agencies must instruct non-excepted employees (including those who do not have a weekend work schedule) that they are prohibited, pursuant to the legal requirements of the Antideficiency Act, from performing any work over the weekend pending further notice. This means that the non-excepted employees will be prohibited, after midnight on Friday night, from working remotely, such as from home --including by accessing agency information technology (e.g., Blackberries, cell phones, computers, laptops), except to the extent that the agency’s contingency plan provides for the agency to use such technology to provide non-excepted employees with updates regarding their furlough and return-to-work status. Also, as noted below, there may be circumstances in which certain employees are accessing agency information technology remotely for a brief period to carry out de minimis shutdown related activities.

If there is a lapse in appropriations, during the employee’s next scheduled work day (i.e., Saturday or Sunday for weekend employees; Monday for all other employees), an agency shall have its non-excepted employees perform -for up to a half-day (e.g., up to four hours) -such “orderly shutdown” activities as are needed for the agency’s implementation of its contingency plan (e.g., turning in equipment if required). Non-excepted employees who are scheduled to telework on their next scheduled work day may perform these shutdown activities from their telework location, if an existing telework agreement is in place. In addition, agencies at their discretion may allow other employees to conduct shutdown activities from a remote location, even without an existing telework agreement, ifthe nature of the employees’ shutdown activities are de minimis (i.e., can be completed in approximately 15 minutes). For example, such activities would include receiving and acknowledging receipt of an electronic furlough notice and adjusting voicemail and email to reflect current work status. All other non-excepted employees will be expected to report to work on their next scheduled work day to carry out orderly shutdown activities.

Saturday, April 9/Sunday, April 10/Monday, April 11: During the weekend, we will advise you further, depending on the status of appropriations action, as follows:

Normal Operations: If it is apparent late Friday evening or early Saturday that a new CR is likely to be enacted on Saturday, OMB will instruct agencies to operate in a normal manner (and not engage in shutdown activities).

Shutdown: If no new CR is likely to be enacted on Saturday, OMB will issue instructions on Saturday for agencies to proceed with their shutdown implementation, initiating the orderly shutdown by non-excepted employees. Agencies will need to issue furlough notices to non-excepted employees during the next scheduled work day (Saturday or Sunday for weekend employees and Monday for all other employees). Agencies are encouraged to issue furlough notices electronically to employees where possible. Absent compelling circumstances, agencies should complete orderly shutdown activities for non-excepted personnel within the first half-day (i.e., up to four hours) of an employee’s norrnal work schedule.

RELATED: Full coverage of the 2011 government shutdown

By  |  04:38 PM ET, 04/07/2011

 
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