Posted: 4:19 am EST
On January 17, on the 27th day of the Trump Shutdown, the State Department released an Urgent Message from the Deputy Under Secretary for Management William Todd instructing employees to return to work on their first work day in Pay Period 2, which is either January 20, or January 22 depending on their location and start of their work week. Apparently, he has found some money to pay employees, and this would allow the agency to resume most personnel operations. Which should be a relief to agency employees here and in over 275 overseas locations where people are worried not only about paying their bills, but also something as basic as obtaining heating oil during the winter months. We’re not sure if this would save those who are already considering curtailments, even resignations, and seeking work elsewhere.
Mr. Todd’s message did not explain where he found the money, why it took four weeks to find it, and why we’re just seeing “national security agency” and “imperative” to describe the State Department and its mission on the 4th week of the shutdown.
Given the poor track record here, we’re concerned that people are asked to go back to work while the State Department is “taking steps to make additional funds available to pay employee salaries.”
What does that even mean? Where is the State Department getting those additional funds? Is it planning to break into Fort Knox?
Also we’re not sure who were actually told about this in the “M” family bureaus. Apparently, people are calling FSI to see what this means. Can they go back to language training even if many of the instructors are contractors?
Reported FSI’s response, “We don’t know. We found out when you did.”
Holy guacamole, so Deputy M’s message is just like a presidential tweet but longer than 280!
ABC News has this nugget from an unnamed spox:
While the department could have taken this step to pay employees as soon as the shutdown started, it didn’t largely because no one anticipated the shutdown to last this long.
“It has become clear as the lapse has continued to historic lengths that we need our full team to address the myriad critical issues requiring U.S. leadership around the globe and to fulfill our commitments to the American people,” a State Department spokesperson told ABC News. “We are also deeply concerned about growing financial hardship and uncertainty affecting Department employees whose salaries and well-being are affected by the unprecedented length of the lapse.”
Whaaaat? Also U.S. leadership yabayabado frak!
The United States has become the subject of alarm and jokes from all continents except perhaps from the sober penguins of Antarctica. In these abnormal times, the Emperor penguins, by the way, boldly want to know how many more bananas do we want?
Politico’s Nahal Toosi also has a comment from longest serving M, Patrick Kennedy:
Pat Kennedy, a former senior State Department official who oversaw management issues at the agency for years, said Thursday that diplomats should have been exempted from the shutdown from the start.
“As a national security agency, no one should have ever been furloughed” at the State Department, he wrote in an email. “And the available funds balances should have been utilized from the beginning so that all employees were paid all along.”
What that State Department spox forgot to add to ABC News is — “M” shoes are too big to fill for some people. Who knew? (see Wait – @StateDept Has a Deputy “M” Again, a Position Discontinued by Congress in 1978). We should note that the State Department had a Senate- confirmed M, and a Senate-confirmed DGHR when Rex Tillerson took office but both were gone fairly quickly under T-Rex’s watch.
Also two years on in this administration, the State Department still does not have a Senate-confirmed Under Secretary for Management. The first Trump nominee for M during Tillerson’s time had an SFRC hearing but was then withdrawn. The second Trump nominee for M, Brian Bulatao, this time under Pompeo, had his nomination returned to the president at the end of last Congress. That nomination was resubmitted to the U.S. Senate on January 16. Since the GOP has an expanded majority in the U.S. Senate, we expect that this nomination will get through the confirmation process at some point, unless a GOP senator finds some issue with it.
Below is the Deputy M message, original statement posted here:
As a national security agency, it is imperative that the Department of State carries out its mission. We are best positioned to do so with fully staffed embassies, consulates, and domestic offices.
Recognizing the increasing hardship to employees caused by the ongoing lapse in appropriations, the Department is taking steps to make additional funds available to pay employee salaries. By taking these steps, the Department expects to be able to resume most personnel operations and fund most salaries beginning with Pay Period 2. As a result, all State Department direct-hire employees and State Department locally employed staff are expected to report to work on their first work day in Pay Period 2. For most employees, that will be January 22. For some overseas posts, where Sunday is the first day of the work week, that will be January 20. Contractors should contact their COR for reporting instructions.
Employees will be paid for work performed beginning on or after January 20 and will receive paychecks for Pay Period 2 on time on February 14. Beyond Pay Period 2, we will review balances and available legal authorities to try to cover future pay periods.
Employees, including those who have performed excepted functions, will not be paid for Pay Period 26 and Pay Period 1(the time period between December 22, 2018, and January 19, 2019) until FY 2019 appropriations are enacted.
Although most personnel operations can resume, bureaus and posts are expected to adhere to strict budget constraints with regard to new spending for contracts, travel, and other needs, consistent with Section B of the Department’s guidance on lapse in appropriations.
Thank you for your continued cooperation.
Very Best Regards,
Deputy Under Secretary for Management
Please note that even if State Department employees start getting paid again, there are thousands more federal employees who are forced to work without pay, and many more sent home without pay. Here are some upcoming dates in the next couple of weeks. See more at CNBC:
Jan. 20: Deadline to make early food stamp payments
Jan. 25: Workers start missing next paychecks
Jan. 28: IRS expected to start accepting tax filings
Jan. 29: State of the Union
Feb. 8: Third missed paycheck
This is no way to run a country, but this is how our country is run these days. No wonder the Emperor penguins in Moscow are also laughing their heads off.