Monday, September 30, 2013

Shutdown 2013 Update No. 4

About two hours to go! I was feeling up all weekend with the prospect of a few days away from work, but this has to have been the most depressing day of work in my 30 years. I don't know which was worse, the concern on the face of those with families worried about possible loss or delay of pay, or those who were going on like nothing was happening - planning, scheduling, setting things up for the week and the new month. Yikes!

For my part, I arrived to find a rather urgent matter that I prepared for briefing DC and passed it on, only to have it apparently lost in the shutdown preparations - how much time and money has already been wasted and will continue to be wasted! Something is certainly wrong here. Well, enough of my woes. Here's the latest (redacted) shutdown info:

To:        All Solicitor’s Office Employees

From:    Acting Solicitor

Re:        Potential Shutdown Tomorrow

Given the uncertainty of government funding tomorrow, I wanted to write a short note to reiterate the Secretary’s recent messages in which she emphasized her very genuine dismay over the potential lapse in appropriations, her empathy for the hardship that furloughs will create, and her appreciation for the critical work that everyone in the Department does for the Nation, whether or not they are subject to being furloughed.  I am no doubt biased, but I believe the work that each of us does here in the Solicitor’s Office is especially critical given our role as advisers and problem solvers on virtually all aspects of the Department’s business.  Your dedication and professionalism have been consistently demonstrated as you have continued to provide exceptional legal services to the Department despite budget cuts that have required extended hiring freezes and limitations on training, awards, and other expenses.  I want you to know how deeply everyone – including the Secretary herself who has specifically noted it – appreciates your dedication, expertise, and public service. 

Turning to the mechanics of a potential shutdown, by now you all should have received notice from your supervisors as to your work status in the event of a lapse in appropriations.  If you are uncertain of your status, please ask your supervisor.  While most SOL employees will be furloughed, a small number of us will be “excepted” from a furlough based on litigation needs or type of work of being done.  Those attorneys and support personnel who are furloughed will still remain on call to meet essential litigation deadlines or to address emergency situations.  As many of you are aware, the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts has confirmed that the federal Judiciary will continue normal operations for 10 working days notwithstanding a lapse in appropriations, and even after that time the federal courts will “continue to hear and decide cases without interruption,” albeit with a reduced staff.  Given that the courts will continue working, SOL employees may need to return to service to meet litigation deadlines.  Known litigation demands should have already been discussed with your supervisor, and if new matters arise that require your assistance while on furlough, we will notify you. 

Tomorrow, if there is a lapse in appropriations, all employees will be expected to report to work to prepare for the orderly shutdown of our offices unless other arrangements have been made with your supervisor (e.g., you may telework and have arranged with your supervisor to complete all shutdown activities remotely).  Among other things, you will receive formal notice tomorrow if you are being furloughed.  The Department has prepared more detailed instructions on shutdown procedures which you should have received by separate email.  If you have any questions after reviewing those materials, please contact your supervisor. 

The SOL furlough plan, as well as other information on the potential shutdown, is posted on the Department’s website at:http://www.doi.gov/shutdown/index.cfm .  This website may also be viewed to obtain status updates during the course of any shutdown. 

Thank you again for your hard work, dedication and commitment to public service during these very difficult times.  While it is extremely hard for any of us to feel overly appreciated right now, I can say with certainty that anyone who has even a basic understanding of how this Department operates recognizes the extraordinary importance of the work you do.  Despite the looming shadow of funding lapses and cuts, we know that our critical mission serving the American public remains, and I thank you for your resolute commitment to that mission.

____________________

From: OS, DOI ADVISORY <doi_advisory@ios.doi.gov>
Date: Mon, Sep 30, 2013 at 12:32 PM
Subject: Guidance Concerning Efforts To Plan For A Potential Lapse In Appropriations
To: 

TO: All Department of the Interior Employees

FROM: Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management and Budget

SUBJECT: Guidance Concerning Efforts To Plan For A Potential Lapse In Appropriations

I want to provide you with important information and guidance concerning efforts to plan for and address a potential lapse of appropriations and government shutdown on Tuesday, October 1, 2013
While the Administration believes that a lapse in funding should not occur, we have a responsibility to the public and to our employees to do everything possible to prepare for a potential shutdown.

These are challenging times – and we understand that these circumstances are challenging to you and your family. A lapse in government activities could impose hardships on you, your families, and the people we serve. We hope that Congress acts quickly to prevent a shutdown and pass a continuing resolution. In the meantime, we want you to know that we are doing everything we can to prepare for a potential shutdown. We will provide you with as much information as possible.

The information, guidance and resources outlined below cover the most important information that you will need to know over these next few days. I encourage you to read it, to print out the Shutdown Checklist for Furloughed Employees, and to make note of telephone numbers you can call and websites you can visit to help keep you updated on the latest information.

Employee Status during a Funding Lapse

If a shutdown occurs, most of our agency’s staff will be furloughed.   This is not a reflection on the value or importance of our employees’ work. 

A limited number of employees will designated as “exempt” or “excepted.”   Employees who fall into these specialized categories have been apprised of their designation.  Exempt employees will continue to work because they are funded from non-lapsing appropriations.  Excepted employees will continue to work, despite lapsing appropriations, in order to protect life and property.

A set of general questions and answers can be found on http://www.doi.gov/shutdown 

Shutdown Notification

If there is a lapse in appropriations on Tuesday, October 1, 2013  and we have direction to proceed with shutdown, the following applies:

Employees should report to work at their normal time and will be given up to four hours to conduct shut down activities.  Within the four hour timeframe, an employee should complete their timesheet, work with their supervisor to secure property and files, receive a furlough letter and acknowledge receipt, and conduct other activities as directed. Supervisors may make other arrangements with employees in order to accomplish these shutdown activities through other means, such as teleworking. Employees should report to work unless they have received different direction from their supervisors.   Some employees will be given additional time for shutdown activities that will extend beyond the 4 hours.  Your supervisor will inform you if you are one of these individuals that is needed to help with these extended shutdown efforts.

A set of human resources questions and answers can be found onhttp://www.doi.gov/shutdown 

Shutdown Activities

All employees will be required to complete a series of shutdown activities.  Employees must use their time for shutdown activities only, not to work on any non-shutdown projects, tasks, activities or respond to emails. Shutdown activities include:

·         Accessing your email.
·         Reading your furlough notice and affirming to your supervisor that you did receive it.
·         Changing your voicemail message to indicate you will be out of the office for an unspecified time.
·         Changing and enabling your email “out of office” message.
·         Securing your work documents appropriately.
·         Completing your time card.
·         Securing your work station and securing government property.

 A checklist of shutdown activities with additional guidance is included at the end of this message.

Telework

Employees who have been approved to telework on Tuesday, October 1 should complete as many shutdown activities as possible (please see attached checklist) before they leave work on Monday, September 30, including completing their timecards, so that on Tuesday, October 1, their responsibilities will be to read their furlough email notification and affirm to their supervisor that they did receive it. 

Time and Attendance

In the event of a government shutdown, employees should record their actual hours for the current pay period, 2013-21, as you normally would for the time period September 22-30, 2013

·         For employees who are not exempt or excepted and would be furloughed – record the balance of the pay period, October 1-5, against the Furlough pay code ______.  Employees should keep track of hours spent on shutdown activities.  Amended time sheets will be completed after operations resume.
·         For excepted employees who will remain on duty to protect life and property - record the balance of the pay period, October 1-5, against the Furlough pay code ______.  Excepted employees should keep track of their time outside of the system. 
·         For employees who are exempt and will continue to work because they are paid from non-lapsing appropriations – report all hours worked as you normally would.

 A set of questions and answers on this are at the end of this document.

Employee Pay

October 1, 2013 is a regular payday covering the pay period ending Saturday, September 21, 2013. Employees will be paid on schedule for their hours worked during that pay period.  If a shutdown occurs, all employees can expect to be paid on Tuesday, October 15, 2013 for hours worked from September 22, 2013 through September 30, 2013.

All employees will be paid for actual time spent conducting shutdown activities (for most employees this will be no more than 4 hours) after the Congress enacts an appropriation or a continuing resolution.

During the shutdown, exempt employees will be paid for actual hours worked in subsequent pay periods every two weeks.  Excepted employees will be paid for actual hours worked during the shutdown upon the next regular payday following passage of a funding bill.  Congress will determine if furloughed employees will be paid subsequent to enactment of an appropriation or continuing resolution.

Use of Electronic Equipment

Please keep in mind that employees are prohibited from working while furloughed, including using agency owned computers, mobile devices, and using remote access service to access email or other applications.  You should turn off all devices and secure and store government equipment. 

Leave

If you have been previously approved to take leave on Tuesday, October 1, and there is a shutdown, your leave will be cancelled. You are expected to report to your duty station unless you have made alternative arrangements with your supervisor.  If there is no shutdown or the government reopens and you had pre-existing leave plans, you should contact your supervisor to ensure your leave approval is still in place or if you are needed to return to work.

Travel

All employees should refrain from beginning official travel leading up to a possible shutdown and should not be traveling during the shutdown, with certain exclusions.

·         Exempt employees who are funded through non-lapsing appropriations may travel with the appropriate approvals from their supervisor. 
·         Excepted employees who need to travel to protect life and property should do so with the approval of their supervisor.  If there is a shutdown, please check with your supervisor to find out if you should immediately return to your duty station or remain in travel status.
·         Employees who would be furloughed and are on travel when the shutdown occurs, must return to their duty station as soon as possible.
·         Employees assigned overseas are not considered to be in travel status because their overseas location is considered their permanent station.
·         Employees on extended TDY travel where a detail personnel action (SF52) was issued and funded should not return to their home location unless instructed by their supervisor.

A set of travel questions and answers can be found on http://www.doi.gov/shutdown 

Access to Buildings and Facilities

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Transit Subsidy

The transit subsidy has already been loaded onto the electronic media and will be available to employees on October 1, 2013.  Employees are authorized to use the subsidy for October 1, 2013 and excepted and exempt employees can use the subsidy during the duration of the shutdown.  On call staff can use the subsidy it if they are called back to work.

 All unused subsidy media will be swept back by DOT at the end of the month.

Agency Services

In October 1, 2013, the shuttles to MIB are expected to be operating.  During a government shutdown, after October 1, there will be no shuttle services to MIB and SIB.  During the shutdown there will be limited custodial and mail service and the health unit and fitness center will be closed.  The MIB child day care center will be closed throughout the duration of the shutdown. 
  
Information Resources

There are a number of resources available where you can get further shutdown information and status updates.  Shutdown information can be found on http://www.doi.gov/shutdown 

In addition, furlough guidance can also be found at the Office of Personnel Management website at www.opm.gov/furlough.  You are also encouraged to listen to the news media to obtain information on the status of government funding and whether a shutdown is necessary.

Shutdown Checklist for Furloughed Employees

·         Meet with your supervisor to obtain additional necessary details and guidelines about shutdown procedures.
·         Provide information about where your supervisor can reach you in the event the government reopens – home phone, personal cell phone, relative phone, etc.
·         Access your email and read your furlough notice and affirm to your supervisor that you have received it.  Instructions can be found at http://googl/tN1PRt.
·         Change your voicemail message.  Suggested language for employee voicemail:
                        “I am out of the office for the duration of the government shutdown. I will not be                                     checking messages, but will return your call upon my return to the office.”
·          Change and enable your email “out of office” message.  Suggested message:
                         “I am out of the office for the duration of the government shutdown. I will not be                                    checking messages, but will return your email upon my return to the office.”
·         Secure your work documents appropriately so they are not left out in the open.
·         Turn off and put away devices, phones, laptops, etc. for safekeeping.
·         Throw out any perishable food. 
·         Remove or store any personal items for safekeeping.
·         Complete your time card
·         Turn off the lights and lock the door when you leave (presuming there are no other occupants in the office).

In the unlikely event that anyone has read this far, these emails caused a little confusion as it seemed to contradict earlier memos that said we could not be in telework status for the close-out. Most of my office including me, are approved for telework and we do it on a sporadic basis when work allows for it (like reading and editing a draft EIS - yuck). I find work usually allows for it on snow days. Anyway, I asked our acting boss if I could get all "secure" and then do my furlough notice acceptance through email by teleworking my 15 minutes tomorrow morning. He thought that would be fine. Then he had to participate in a managers' telecon and that option was nixed except for those approved to telework from far distant stations.

Yes, there's a lot of bureaucracy involved in shutting down the bureaucracy.


Continue to:
Sen. Lee's Munchkins (Update No. 4.5)

4 comments:

  1. Being an Australian, you will have to forgive me when I confess that pretty much all of my understanding of the workings of the US political system was obtained during the great Josiah Edward "Jed" Bartlet, PhD., D.Hum.Litt administration! It has at least given me a greater (although fictionalised) understanding of what you may be going through, although I do have to stop myself from half-expecting President Obama taking a dramatic walk up to the hill! I hope and pray for you, and your nation, that common sense will prevail and life will settle back to normal quickly. Just as an insight as to how we deal with such dilemmas in the land down under, you may be interested to read this: http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Double_dissolution

    All the best,
    Colin from Tasmania

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    Replies
    1. Whoa!! I need to do more study of the Australian Constitution! That sounds like a great solution!

      Thanks for the link and for your kind thoughts, Colin!

      (readers: you have to cute and paste the url above. Blogger has got to fix this link thing in the comment box!)

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  2. Although our Senate members can be prone to playing politics(!), I think the threat of them potentially loosing their seat in a "snap" (and it is quick!) election tempers things somewhat in the grandstanding department, especially if their stand is seen as wrong by the public. The upper house is very rarely controlled by one of the two major parties (though it has certainly happened in my lifetime) and there are usually a number of seats held by minor parties and independents, which serve as both an irritant to the two (essentially left leaning/right leaning) majors, but also often as a great source of compromise. You therefore have voters who have a particular leaning in their voting for the lower house, but go for an independent who they trust in the upper house. It is certainly in the upper house voting-wise that I find it easier to follow the mandate "Wherefore, honest men and wise men should be sought for diligently, and good men and wise men ye should observe to uphold; otherwise whatsoever is less than these cometh of evil."

    I should also point out that voting is compulsory in Australia.

    I should also say that I am so very grateful that we have a reasonable level of health cover available "freely" (via taxation) for all our citizens. It is by no means perfect, but as a father of six kids, including a set of triplets (there were 25 people working in the theatre during the c-section), one child who has had numerous major heart operations, a couple of kids on the Autism Spectrum, and myself spending time in the Psychiatric ward of the local Public Hospital (Hey! Is it any surprise?!) I have absolutely no idea where we would be if we were living in the USA.

    -Colin

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Comments are welcome. Feel free to disagree as many do. You can even be passionate (in moderation). Comments that contain offensive language, too many caps, conspiracy theories, gratuitous Mormon bashing, personal attacks on others who comment, or commercial solicitations- I send to spam. This is a troll-free zone. Charity always!