It’s instructive, sometimes, to see how different agencies react to lean budgetary times. Some go into hibernation. Others flare up like a box of flaming mortar increments — or, to continue the animal analogy, like salmon on their fatal trip upstream to reproduce. And then, as we will see, “hardships” for government workers are seldom equivalent to the real hardships faced by toilers in the Dreaded Private Sector™.
Hibernation: the DOD way
This is what plonked into Department of the Army civilian inboxes yesterday afternoon.
From: [AN ARMY CIVILIAN BOSS] Sent: Friday, September 27, 2013 To: [REDACTED] Subject: FW: Verbal Furlough Notification (UNCLASSIFIED) Importance: High Classification: UNCLASSIFIED Caveats: NONE I’ve been asked to pass the following: Please let your civilian personnel know as soon as possible that the possibility of a “Shutdown” or “Emergency” Furlough exists if Congress does not pass an appropriations bill or continuing resolution by Monday 2359. How it will go: –If nothing is passed by Congress then DACs will come into work on Tuesday to receive and sign the furlough notification memo. It sounds as if DACs will receive 4 hours of pay on Tuesday to complete the paperwork and shutdown workstations. –No DACs will be in a leave status. Everyone will revert to a “non-pay” and “non-work” status. –Continue to check the OPM website for the latest information if a furlough goes into effect. Time sheets will be filled out as if there will be no furlough. v/r [REDACTED] Classification: UNCLASSIFIED Caveats: NONE
Conflagration: The DHS way
DHS’s investigative arm, Homeland Security Investigations, is having a massive offsite in Philadelphia this week. Offsite? Parr-tay! Not in the city, where the crime is: these aren’t the investigators who are meeting. These are the bosses. They’ll be in a Main Line hotel, with $200-and-up rooms. As the guy in Jurassic Park keeps mumbling. “Spared no expense.” And there are a lot of them. Twenty-five Senior Executive Service level Special Agents in Charge are flying in from all points of the compass. They’ll be met by forty Headquarters SESes, who are coming up from DC by train, plane (the most senior of them by VIP jets and helicopters), and automobile. Since it’s generally understood in the Federal service that an SES cannot find his own ass without a staff of five and a PowerPoint asslocation briefing, lesser staffers will be swarming like flies around the SESes. But nobody’s going to be driving in the local area. As a nod to “austerity,” no rental cars are laid on. (This also avoids the otherwise-inevitable task for some underling, to smooth Philadelphia PD’s Highway Patrol’s ruffled feathers and get DUI, leaving-the-scene, or vehicular-homicide charges against some member of the Senior Executive Service broomed). But it’s not like these 65+ Very Important Personages will have to rusticate in their hotel, pounding shots from the minibar and stuffing themselves with room-service chateaubriand. Every DHS agency’s G-ride in town has been mobilized, and every criminal investigator has been pulled off whatever silly criminal investigation he or she was wasting time on. Instead each will act as driver, tour guide, concierge and procurer to the SES Roman Carnival. What’s your role in all this? Unless you’re one of the Privileged Partiers, or one of the Designated Drivers, whose job is to tug his forelock, cast his eyes down from the August Personage, and obey, your function in this whole thing is this: pay your taxes and keep your opinions to yourself. NSA is monitoring you, after all.
The History of Government shutdowns
If you get the feeling that this has all been done before, and better you’re probably not too far off the mark. The Congressional Research Service has looked in to the phenomenon, and found that:
Since FY1952, all of the regular appropriations acts were enacted on time in only four instances (FY1977, FY1989, FY1995, and FY1997). No CRs were enacted for three of these fiscal years, but CRs were enacted for FY1977 to fund certain unauthorized programs whose funding had been dropped from the regular appropriations acts. Further, no CRs were enacted for FY1953, even though all but one of the regular appropriations were enacted late.
So, Congress not doing its Article 1 job: not entirely a new thing. And, historically, a “government shutdown” isn’t a permanent trauma for DC workers: historically, they’ve always been paid afterwards for the hours they didn’t work. So in effect, this whole mess just winds up being one more luxo benefit for the permanent bureaucracy — an extra paid vacation! To wrap up, for any interested in this arcane subject, here are two Congressional Research Service documents, one on past funding gaps (from which the above quote is drawn) and the other, specifically, on DOD shutdowns.
A brief overview of funding gaps: (U)CRSonFederalFundingGaps–ABriefOverviewRS20348 [.pdf]
DOD Shutdowns: OpnsoftheDoDDuringaLapseinAppropsR41745 [.pdf]