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U.S.: Shutdown Impact - How It Affects Agencies
Source: federalnewsradio.com
Source Date: Friday, October 11, 2013
Focus: Electronic and Mobile Government, ICT for MDGs
Country: United States
Created: Oct 15, 2013

With the shutdown of the federal government heading into its third week, Federal News Radio has prepared this snapshot of how federal agencies, programs, employees and contractors are faring.

WORKFORCE / PAY / BENEFITS

?When congressional appropriations lapsed Oct. 1, some 800,000 civilian federal employees were notified they would be furloughed for the duration of the shutdown.

?The number of furloughed feds has receded in recent days. First the Defense Department recalled most of its furloughed workers last week — the result of a last-minute law passed by Congress before the shutdown went into effect. Other agencies, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency, have recalled their furloughed workers because of emergency situations. All told, about 350,000 employees remain furloughed, according to an estimate by the Associated Press.

?It's looking increasingly likely that all federal employees — regardless of furlough status — will see delays in receiving their paychecks. "Excepted" employees, who have remained on the job through the shutdown, are accruing time for which they will eventually be paid — but only after the shutdown ends.

?Backpay for furloughed employees requires specific legislation. It was uncertain at first whether Congress would approve retroactive pay for nonworking, furloughed employees. However, the House took the lead, unanimously passing such a bill. But the measure has stalled in the Senate.

?Federal health benefits, retirement payments and employees' Thrift Savings Plan are generally unaffected by the shutdown. However, because employees are in nonpay status, they are unable to contribute to their TSP accounts and are ineligible for their agencies' matching contributions.

?Retirees will have to wait to find out the size of next year's cost-of-living adjustment. The Social Security Administration announced Oct. 9 that because the Labor Department is unable to report recent inflation statistics because of the shutdown, it would be delayed in announcing the COLA.

CONTRACTING / ACQUISITION / INDUSTRY

- Many of the largest defense contractors have announced large-scale furloughs of parts of their workforce. URS Corporation announced that about 3,000 of its employees would be furloughed because of the shutdown. Lockheed Martin has furloughed 2,400 employees and BAE Systems has sent more than 1,000 home.

?On the other hand, United Technologies, which had originally planned to furlough about 2,000 employees, canceled those plans after DoD recalled most of its furloughed civilian workers

- The Defense Finance and Accounting Service says contractors should expect delays in the payment process. While DFAS is open for business throughout the shutdown, contract and vendor payments could be delayed because some DoD employees involved in the payment process are furloughed.

- The General Services Administration's massive contract for professional services, known as OASIS, has been extended indefinitely because of the government shutdown.

MILITARY / VETERANS

?Military pay is unaffected by the shutdown. The passage of the Pay Our Military Act, just hours before congressional appropriations lapsed last week, also ensures that service members' paychecks aren't delayed.

- To much disgust and outrage, the Defense Department had to suspend the payment of "death gratuities" to the families of service members killed in action to cover funeral expenses and other immediate costs. DoD signed a deal with the nonprofit Fisher House Foundation to cover the $100,000 payments. The contract provides for DoD to reimburse the group once Congress ends the government shutdown. Congress also passed legislation.

- The Veterans Affairs Department is mostly exempt from shutdown-related furloughs thanks to a unique funding structure at the agency. However, the agency is quickly running dry of carry-over funding, leading to furloughs this past week of 2,800 IT workers and another 7,800 from the Veterans Benefits Administration. If the shutdown were to extend to Nov. 1, VA would be forced to furlough an additional 10,000 employees.

- If the shutdown lasts into next month, VA says about 5 million people, including veterans and surviving family members, will stop receiving benefit checks. Tuition and education stipends for some 500,000 military and veteran students under the GI Bill would also be halted.

- Burials in veterans cemeteries could be delayed because VA would be forced to move to a modified burial schedule at 131 national cemeteries.

SCIENCE / TECHNOLOGY

- The federal government's chief information officer, Steven VanRoekel, told the The Wall Street Journal in an interview that most IT staffers responding to cyberattacks have been furloughed. "I have fewer eyes out there," he said.

- Many public-facing agency websites went dark Oct. 1 because of the shutdown, including the Agriculture Department, the Environmental Protection Agency and NASA. Social media accounts for many agencies have also been inactive.

- The Nuclear Regulatory Commission shut down most operations on Thursday, after running out of carry-over fiscal 2013 funding. While resident inspectors will remain on the job and any immediate safety or security matters will be handled, only about 300 employees, out of a total workforce of 3,900, will remain on the job.

- Medical research at the National Institutes of Health has been disrupted as some studies have been delayed. New patients are generally not being accepted into clinical research at the National Institutes of Health, but current patients continue to receive care. Normally, about 200 new patients every week enroll in studies at the NIH's research-only hospital, many of them after standard treatments have failed.

FEDERAL BUILDINGS / FACILITIES

- All national parks have been closed since the shutdown began, but the Obama administration said this week it would allow states to use their own money to reopen some national parks.

- The General Services Administration, the property manager for much of the federal government, says the buildings it owns, leases or manages will remain open with reduced services, similar to the limited services it offers on weekends. GSA also informed private-sector landlords that it will be able to make timely rental payment "assuming the current funding lapse is brief."

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