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Defense shutdown plans outlined in draft memo

Mar. 11, 2011 - 06:00AM   |  
By MARCUS WEISGERBER   |   Comments
According to a draft guidance document circulating in the Pentagon, the Defense Department has laid out contingency plans detailing which parts of the military would continue to operate if the federal government shuts down.
According to a draft guidance document circulating in the Pentagon, the Defense Department has laid out contingency plans detailing which parts of the military would continue to operate if the federal government shuts down. (File photo / Navy)

The Defense Department has laid out contingency plans detailing which parts of the U.S. military would continue to operate if the federal government shuts down, according to a draft guidance document circulating in the Pentagon.

The 13-page memo lists specific divisions and activities that would be exempt from a government work stoppage caused by a failure by Congress to pass a 2011 budget bill or a continuing resolution.

The memo was drafted before March 4, one potential shutdown date. Congress passed a continuing resolution last week that funds the Pentagon through March 18.

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"No new guidance has been issued by the department," a DoD spokeswoman said. "All government agencies are required to develop and maintain plans for operations in the absence of appropriations, and as part of our prudent planning, the department continues to work with service and defense agency leadership."

If the U.S. federal government shuts down, all military personnel would be required to continue working without pay, according to the memo. The military would continue to operate in Afghanistan, and troops would continue to prepare for deployment. But many civilian DoD employees could be furloughed.

Acquisition officials supporting exempt activities would continue working. Central receiving points for storage of supplies and materials purchased prior to the shutdown are also positions considered exempt.

As for budget officials, "[a]ctivities necessary to control funds, record new obligations incurred in the performance of exempt activities, and manage working capital funds" would continue working, as will "[a]ctivities necessary to effect upward adjustment of obligations and the reallocation of prior-year unobligated funds in support of exempt activities," the memo said.

Contractors who work under a contract that was fully obligated upon execution could continue providing services, whether in support of exempt activities or not. But new contracts, including renewals or extensions, "may not be executed unless the contractor is supporting an exempt activity," the memo stated.

DoD would not terminate contracts or issue stop-work orders when a continuing resolution expires, "unless a new obligation of funds is required under the contract, and the contract is not required to support an exempt activity," according to the memo.

"In cases where new obligation is required and the contract is not required to support an exempt activity, the issuance of a stop work order or the termination of the contract will be required."

The Pentagon may continue to enter new contracts or place task orders under existing contracts to purchase supplies or services necessary to carry out the exempt activities.

"It is emphasized that this authority is to be exercised only when determined to be necessary - where delay in contracting would endanger national security or create a risk to human life or property," the memo stated.

Stan Soloway, president of the Professional Services Council (PSC), said the guidance is pretty general and not very detailed.

"Nothing in there is surprising," he said.

The Arlington, Va.-based PSC is a trade group that represents U.S. government contractors.

Soloway said he expects more detailed guidance for contractors to come from federal agencies, adding that Dan Gordon, administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, spoke with chief acquisition officers earlier in the week about what that guidance should include.

Alan Chvotkin, executive vice president and counsel for the PSC, said that though it is generally understood that contracts underway already have funding allocated for them, contractors should check on exactly what rules they are working under. Work that was funded under a previous continuing resolution may not be funded under a new one.

"We won't know until circumstances arise and details are known," Chvotkin said.

Many divisions and activities within the U.S. military's combatant commands would remain staffed during a shutdown.

For example, much of Northern Command, which is responsible for defending the United States from an attack, would remain on duty. Other workers still reporting for duty would include those supporting ballistic missile defense operations and Operation Noble Eagle, a mission involving fighter jets strategically based around the country that remain on alert to defend against an air attack or hijacked aircraft.

Christopher P. Cavas and Sarah Chacko contributed to this report.

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