Posted: 2:38 am PST
On January 3, the Democratic-led House passed spending bills with a handful of Republicans joining them to reopen the government without funds for the border wall. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already said repeatedly that he won’t bring the measures up for a vote even if similar legislations made it through the Senate a couple of weeks ago. Those bills were indeed DOA in the Senate, which means, this shutdown will go on and on for now.
Three weeks ago when the shutdown started the State Department issued a notice that required the agency to “immediately commence shutdown procedures.” The exceptions being those accounts that “initially have available balances” and the employees worldwide working in those funded entities supposedly were informed to continue to report to work.
Accounts subject to lapse in appropriation:
Diplomatic and Consular Programs
Office of the Inspector General
International Boundary and Water Commission Salary and Expenses
American Sections (Note: your blogger doesn’t know what this includes)
Accounts not subject to lapse in appropriation:
Worldwide Security Protection (Covers all DS and 90+ security positions in other bureaus)
Bureau of Medical Services: Directorate of Operational Medicine
Bureau of Administration: Office of Emergency Management
Consular and Border Security Program (Covers all of CA and other consular support personnel)
International Cooperative Administrative Support Services (ICASS)
State Working Capital Fund services
Embassy, Security, Construction, and Maintenance (Covers all of OBO)
Educational and Cultural Exchange Programs
American Institute in Taiwan
Global Health (S/GAC & PEPFAR)
International Narcotics and Law Enforcement
Migration and Refugee Assistance
The announcement also notes that the employees excepted list is subject to change, which could lead to additional employees receiving furlough notices “if the lapse is expected to continue.”
We understand that Diplomatic Security is already urging the “prudent use of overtime” to slow down the drawdown of its residual funding. No one is talking about it yet, but how long will the State Department continue to pay for its local employees including guards at 277 overseas posts without regular funding? How long will those “initial balances” last? State Department furlough guidelines says that standard procedures to process local employee staff payroll must be followed and that under no circumstances should alternate means be used to pay LE staff salaries, such as using petty cash. What are they going to do with contract guards?
The State Department’s school, the Foreign Service Institute (FSI)is now closed to all students for the duration of the furlough period. The closure apparently also includes its online student portal. At least one small government contractor at FSI has laid off people just in the last 48 hours. Several dozen employees were affected. Family members working as contractors or subcontractors are affected. If this shutdown continues, married couples working for Uncle Sam and or government contractors will suffer a double whammy — one partner is laid off, and the other partner is working with no pay (this is not to say that single employees do not have bills and loans to pay, because they do, too). There are also couples working for Uncle Sam as tandem, and both partners are considered “essential” with no pay. And what about one-income FS families where a significant portion of spouses are not employed/could not get employed overseas? This is not the first government shutdown, of course, but this is perhaps the most worrisome (until the next one) simply because of erratic pronouncements at the top, and a president who threatens to drag this out “for months or even years.”
The State Department’s Overseas Buildings Operations whose mission is “to provide safe, secure and functional facilities” for overseas mission is said to be running low on fuel. If OBO which typically has “no-year” funding is in trouble, that could mean a whole lot of the entities that initially had “available balances” may also be running into problems as the shutdown enters its third week. OBO has several ongoing projects overseas including 53 projects now in design or under construction. Furlough guidance states that OBO may “continue previously awarded construction and renovation projects for which adequate funds were obligated unless adequate supervision cannot be provided, in which case consider suspension of work if contractually permitted and practically feasible.”
Diplomatic Post Offices are reportedly not affected by the shutdown at this time, but we’re hearing that the situation will not be the same if the shutdown is not lifted by the end of January.
Remember the non-emergency personnel and family members evacuated from the US Embassy Kinshasa in December? The evacuees arrived in the DC area just before the shutdown and are now on furlough, too. Guess who’s processing their evacuation vouchers? Nobody.
The agency shutdown guidelines also says that “Reassignment of personnel already planned may be continued, such as Permanent Changes of Station (PCS), only if funds have been previously obligated.” A host of nominees were just confirmed by the U.S. Senate recently but since no one knows for sure who will be confirmed, we don’t know how travel and relocation funds could have been appropriated ahead of time.Posts may see their new ambassadors soon, or they may not. One source told us that no one is getting orders or travel authorizations at this time. Can somebody please give us a confirmation on this?
We’re also now hearing talks about Consular Affairs’ funding issue, which is largely a self-funded operation, so help us out here — we’re perplexed about that. How is it running out of funds when its funding is not congressionally appropriated?