“We’re taking these steps because responsible management demands it,” Zients said Thursday.
Zients rattled off a list of government services expected to cease, including Smithsonian museums and national parks, and the processing of some IRS tax refunds and small business loans. But air traffic control duties, the U.S. Postal Service, FEMA disaster efforts and the National Weather Service would continue, Zients said.
He said there will be “many fewer staffers at the White House.”
Asked about the length of a shutdown, Zients said, “Obviously the shorter the better.” He said there was no estimate on how much it would cost the government to restart operations.
Messages being sent by senior agency leaders are asking workers to update pay and contact information before Friday, when individual employees would learn whether they have to work during a shutdown.
Nationwide, about 800,000 federal employees and hundreds of thousands of contractors could be furloughed, some deprived of their BlackBerrys and other devices, according to senior Obama administration officials familiar with the plans.
Any shutdown of the federal government, the chief industry of Washington, would also affect tourists, the Mall and its museums, and thousands of D.C. residents who would lose city services.
Ford’s Theatre, a national historic site, would be closed to the public and its programming canceled. The Washington Monument would also be closed.
Many government Web sites would stop updating information. But current Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security beneficiaries would continue to receive payments.
As congressional negotiators pushed last-ditch efforts to agree on a 2011 budget and prevent a shutdown, the National Cherry Blossom Festival announced that its annual gala parade, scheduled for Saturday along Constitution Avenue, will be canceled if lawmakers do not reach an agreement.
Even with the bleachers in place and parade-goers en route, festival officials said late Wednesday that the National Park Service could not honor the group’s parade permits if a shutdown occurs.
The Interior Department, which oversees the National Park Service, said in a statement: “Visitor activities that require a permit, including public events, will not be allowed or will be canceled or postponed. Visitor centers will be closed and access to park areas denied, including the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, Independence Hall, Alcatraz, and the Washington Monument.”