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Geoscience Policy Monthly Review: September 2013

The Monthly Review is part of a continuing effort to improve communications about the role of geoscience in policy. Current and archived monthly reviews are available online.

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  • Budget Update for September

For most of September, Congress was focused on considering a budget for 2014 before the 2013 fiscal year ended on September 30th. Congress, however, has failed to pass a budget or a Continuing Resolution (CR) and so all non-essential government services are shutting down, and thousands of non-essential government employees, including those at the National Science Foundation, the Department of the Interior, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and NASA, are being furloughed.  

Most members of Congress had hoped for a Continuing Resolution, which would have continued to fund the government at current levels for a few months. This would have given members of Congress more time to come to a consensus on the overall budget. However, both chambers of the government volleyed opposing Continuing Resolutions late into the night on September 30th, ultimately reaching the deadline at 12:00am on Tuesday, October 1, without agreement. On September 30, the Republican-dominated House of Representatives passed three short-term CRs such as H.J.Res. 59, which would have funded the federal government through December, but would also have defunded or delayed President Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The Democrat-controlled Senate passed bills to establish a “clean” CR with no conditions attached and refused to approve the House proposals that defunded or delayed the President’s flagship healthcare law. Therefore, for now, the two chambers have reached a stalemate and the government officially begins its orderly shutdown this morning.

As Congress struggles to resolve the FY 2014 impasse, the next budget battle looms: the government is projected to reach its borrowing limit on October 17.

Any bill to fund the government has to be agreed on by both chambers and signed by the President in order to reverse the government shutdown.

Sources: The Government Printing Office, the House of Representatives

  • Agency Contingency Plans for the government shutdown

The majority of federal agencies have released contingency plans detailing how they will execute an orderly ceasing of programs. The agencies’ plans, which can be seen here, are based on which programs and employees are considered essential (excepted) or non-essential (non-excepted) during the funding hiatus.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) reported in their contingency plan that only 43 of their 8,623 employees would be kept on as excepted to provide leadership and mission support for operations necessary to protect life and property. 8,530 USGS employees will be required to shutdown within a 4-6 hour window, and an additional 50 employees necessary to assist in the shutdown will have a 40-hour window. 200 USGS employees would remain “on-call” in the event of a natural disaster, including those at volcano observatories, the Seismic Laboratory, the Water Science Centers, and the Earth Resources Observation and Science Center. USGS stream gages would also remain functioning in the event of a government shutdown, as they are able to operate with little human interaction.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) reported in their contingency plan that of their approximately 2,000 employees no more than 30 would be considered excepted-employees. Of those 30 employees only those that would help maintain effective security for NSF facilities or provide the minimum-amount of assistance for those awardees who have already received grants may continue to work. NSF awardee-operated facilities will remain open as already-appropriated funding permits. As those funds are exhausted those facilities will begin an orderly shutdown.

A full list of agency contingency plans can be found here.

Sources: The White House









Monthly Review prepared by: Maeve Boland, Geoscience Policy Director; Abby Seadler, Geoscience Policy Associate; andSophia Ford, AGI/AAPG Fall Intern.



Compiled October 1, 2013