State Department’s Shutdown and Furlough Updates

— By Domani Spero


In the October 2 Daily Press Briefing, the State Department officially identified two offices that do not have “carryover funds” and were immediately impacted by the shutdown:  the Office of the Inspector General, and the International Boundary and Water Commission.

The Office of the Inspector General (State/OIG) Inspection branch has approximately 65 employees; adding that to the number of staffers from Audit, Investigation, General Counsel, Public Affairs and EX, amounts to approximately 200 total employees according to two sources.  One branch has four employees designated as “excepted” out of 50 employees.  We are guesstimating that about 10-12% of the total IG staff has been declared “excepted.” We are unable to locate a separate Absence of Appropriation Plan for the IG office. State’s September 27 Guidance on Operations During a Lapse in Appropriations is here.

On September 27, the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) published its own guide on IBWC operations during a lapse in appropriations. The IBWC traces its roots to the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and the Gadsden Treaty of 1853, which established temporary joint commissions to survey, map, and demarcate with ground landmarks the new United States (U.S.) – Mexico boundary.

Its shutdown guide indicates that  “operations department will continue to operate critical functions at the San Diego, CA and Nogales, AZ International Wastewater Treatment Plants; Falcon Dam and Falcon Power Plant; Amistad Dam and Amistad Power Plant. These operations require 24/7 operations to ensure the safety of lives and property in these regions. Water delivery and accounting operations will continue at Falcon Dam, Amistad Dam, Anzalduas Dam, Retamal Dam, and American Dam in compliance with 1944 and 1906 water treaty obligations. Oversight of flood control operations is also required of the Upper and Lower Rio Grande Flood Control systems to manage the potential of floods events.” 

The interesting thing about the IBWC guide is it also includes a roster of “excepted” employees during the furlough effective October 1, 2013 12:01 AM EDT that includes names, titles, divisions and emergency contact numbers. We don’t know how many IBWC employees had been furloughed but about 180 employees have been designated “excepted.”

As of 3:30 pm on October 2, AFSA reported that bureaus, with the exception of the OIG, have not notified any employees of their excepted/non-excepted status.  USAID similarly is relying on multi-year funds to sustain operations. Furloughs, however, are in effect at Department of Commerce HQ and domestic posts; chiefs of mission determine excepted/non-excepted status at post. Furloughs are also in effect at Department of Agriculture (FAS and APHIS) HQ and domestic posts; chiefs of mission determine excepted/non-excepted status at post. At the BBG, all overseas broadcasting efforts have been deemed essential.  About 600 employees had been furloughed out of a total staff of 1600.

Now to the official State Department update via the Daily Press Briefing with Marie Harf, the Deputy Spokesperson on October 2, 2013:

QUESTION: So do you have any more update on the shutdown’s effects on the State Department, furloughs for example, or any kind of information you give us on these programs that are funded for one year and —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — which ones might be affected?

MS. HARF: Yeah, absolutely. So no update on furloughs; we’re in the same place we’ve been on that for the last few days. I know Jen’s talked about it a lot.

In terms of programs that are impacted immediately and one-year funding, I have a couple of examples here. There – and again, as we’ve talked about, these offices do not have the available carryover funds to sustain operations and don’t have other sources of operating funds like fees, as we’ve talked about with passports and visas. Some of these offices include the Office of the Inspector General, the International Boundary and Water Commission. Certain Department of State accounts with only single-year direct appropriations also include contributions to international organizations – not all of them but some of them. There’s also an impact on our foreign military funding. I know we’ve talked a lot about FMF in here. In the absence of a continuing resolution, we have no FY14 Foreign Military Financing, International Military Education [and Training], or Peacekeeping Operations funds to obligate.

So for example – I’ll just give you one example – FY 2014 security assistance funding for Israel will be delayed until a continuing resolution or until full-year appropriation is passed. The State Department’s ability to provide military assistance to Israel and other allies in the timeframe that is expected and customary could be hindered depending on the length of the shutdown. So while there are no furloughs, it’s not just business as usual, and there are programs, certainly, that are affected and which all could be up and running again if Congress could get some business done. 
QUESTION: I just wanted to see if you could give us a little bit more detail. A couple of days ago, Jen was saying the number crunchers were looking at what funds are available, what’s in, what’s out. Can you just give us an idea, do they kind of know in advance what’s out there, because obviously, you deal with budgets all the time, or is it they are sitting up on a floor up there looking at things as we’re speaking and saying, “No, we can’t afford that; we can’t afford this”? What – behind the scenes, what do they do?

MS. HARF: Right. Well, obviously, we have a picture of what our resources look like, right? So Jen has talked about this a lot in terms of the fact that we haven’t had to furlough yet, which is – for most of our employees, which is a good thing. But I think the longer this goes on, every day that the government is shut down, we have to take a look at the numbers and we have to take a hard look at competing priorities and our programs around the world. And every day that this goes on longer, there will be things we can’t do. There will be ways that we cannot go overseas and promote our interests.
QUESTION: Regarding these furloughs and people who are – federal employees that they are going to be affected by – which the number – I mean, it’s like, in the last two or three days, they are saying about 800,000 people.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you have an – I mean, I know it’s a big number and it’s an unspecified number. Do you have, somehow, a round figure of how many people would be affected with the State Department or its —

MS. HARF: I don’t, and I can look into that and see if there’s more specific numbers I can get to you. As you all know, we’ve talked about for the last few days that we have a specific funding mechanism that has allowed us to continue without the massive furloughs that we’ve seen elsewhere, but I can look into if there are specific numbers going forward. Hopefully, we won’t get to that point.
QUESTION: In terms of the Office of Inspector General and the Boundary and Water, and all that —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — how were they affected?

MS. HARF: How were they – well, you asked about offices that were impacted immediately under one-year funding.


MS. HARF: So offices that operate with this one-year funding that does not have available carryover funds, they’ve been notified that they have to cease operations.

QUESTION: So that doesn’t affect – that doesn’t mean there’s furloughs?

MS. HARF: I can check on that, on furloughs for you. In terms of these very small number of employees, there may, in fact, be. I think we’ve said for the last few days that we – most of our employees are not affected by furloughs at this point. There may be some in these offices. So I’ll check on that.


MS. HARF: And I can check if there are numbers available. I just don’t know.