Obama administration moving forward with government shutdown plans

The process of shutting down the federal government is underway.

With the clock ticking towards Friday’s federal budget deadline and President Obama hosting congressional leaders for budget talks at the White House on Tuesday, top administration officials have instructed agency officials to begin sharing details of shutdown contingency plans with top managers. This marks the next step toward both curtailing government operations if a budget impasse occurs and informing federal workers whether they are considered “essential” personnel who would stay on the job despite a shutdown.

Though Obama and congressional leaders remain committed to avoiding a shutdown, “given the realities of the calendar, good management requires that we continue contingency planning for an orderly shutdown should the negotiations not be completed by” Friday at midnight, Office of Management and Budget Deputy Director Jeffrey Zients said in a memo. The message was sent to the government’s deputy secretaries and chiefs of staff, who handle day-to-day management issues for agencies and departments.

OMB confirmed the authenticity of the memo, which was obtained from a senior government official who provided it on condition of anonymity.

OMB — which is reviewing each agency’s shutdown plans — is still reviewing the contingency plans, and Zients encouraged officials to keep tweaking them as necessary. Senior political leaders at each agency should also start speaking with senior career managers “to ensure you have their feedback and input on plans to date.”

Zients said any discussions with senior managers “should be focused on the logistical and managerial issues related to a potential shutdown to ensure that managers are prepared to implement your shutdown plans should the need arise.”

“We know that the current uncertainty and threat of a shutdown is a tremendous burden on federal employees, and are very much aware that a shutdown – should it occur – would impose hardships on many employees,” the memo continued. “We are continuing to monitor the status of negotiations, and will work with you to best prepare the hard-working men and women of our workforce for any contingency.”

The administration plans to share more details on shutdown planning “no later than” Tuesday morning, according to the memo.

The new instructions come amid growing uncertainty and nervousness among federal employees and the union leaders who represent many of them.

The memo also signals the administration is listening to the guidance of Clinton-era government officials, who have cautioned in recent weeks that any preparations for a shutdown should be communicated in advance to avoid confusion in the ranks.

“We are aware of the calendar,” Kenneth Baer, a senior OMB official and spokesman, said Monday evening.

OMB said last week it would “absolutely communicate with the workforce” about shutdown contingency plans when deemed necessary.

It appears that hour has come.

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READ ZIENTS’S FULL MEMO TO AGENCY OFFICIALS:

Colleagues:

The President and Congressional leadership have made it clear they want to avoid a government shutdown, and negotiations to that end are continuing. That said, given the realities of the calendar, good management requires that we continue contingency planning for an orderly shutdown should the negotiations not be completed by the end of the current CR this coming Friday, April 8th at midnight.

Acknowledging the disruption and risks a shutdown can cause for employees and agencies, we continue to work with agency leaders to refine and update their contingency plans. And today, we are encouraging you to communicate with senior managers throughout your organizations as appropriate to ensure you have their feedback and input on plans to date. These communications should be focused on the logistical and managerial issues related to a potential shutdown to ensure that managers are prepared to implement your shutdown plans should the need arise.

We know that the current uncertainty and threat of a shutdown is a tremendous burden on federal employees, and are very much aware that a shutdown – should it occur – would impose hardships on many employees. We are continuing to monitor the status of negotiations, and will work with you to best prepare the hard-working men and women of our workforce for any contingency.

We will be back in touch with another update no later than tomorrow morning.

Jeff

RELATED: Full coverage of government shutdown 2011

Ed O’Keefe is covering the 2016 presidential campaign, with a focus on Jeb Bush and other Republican candidates. He's covered presidential and congressional politics since 2008. Off the trail, he's covered Capitol Hill, federal agencies and the federal workforce, and spent a brief time covering the war in Iraq.

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