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DorobekINSIDER: All this shutdown talk — what’s the cost of that?

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Federal workers and contractors seemly have dodged yet another shutdown — I’ve actually lost count about how many there have been this year. (Federal Computer Week says there have been five.)

Last night, I was invited to the annual holiday party hosted by ASI Government, formerly Acquisition Solutions. Not surprising, the buzz of the night was about… the change of leadership at ASI Government — former Agriculture Department CIO Anne Reed stepping into the role of chairwoman after seven years, and Kimberly “Kymm” McCabe has taken over the role as ASI Government’s President and Chief Executive Officer…

McCabe specifically mentioned the end of the war in Iraq

But most of the focus was on… the then potential of a government shutdown. Last night, as the festivities were going on, there seemed to be progress toward a resolution, but it was only late last night that the sides announced they had found common ground. But there was still interesting discussion around the topic. One person — now in industry after a distinguished government career — said that the shutdown threat had almost become SOP. It has become standard operating procedure. Yet several govies showed up late specifically because they were working on shutdown contingency plans.

But 1105 President Anne Armstrong asked about the costs of all this.

The short answer is… there is no easy answer.

The Congressional Research Service actually looked at the shutdown issue back in September 1995.

The estimated costs of shutting down the federal government during a lapse in appropriations are incomplete and sketchy at best. That is especially true in the brief shutdown periods that occurred prior to 1995. In those federal shutdown experiences, the General Accounting Office (GAO) attempted to evaluate such government-wide costs, but incomplete and lack of response by various agencies hampered this undertaking. Certain limited costs have been identified over the years, however. GAO found costs of about $1 million resulting from having to issue split or late paychecks in October 1979 and approximately $1.1 million from having to prepare agency shutdown plans in 1980.

In 1991, GAO found that the estimated partial costs for the federal government shutdown over the Columbus Day Holiday week-end in 1990 was $1.7 million.

There have been two other CRS reports — one on September 27, 2010: Shutdown of the Federal Government: Causes, Processes, and Effects. The other is more of a round-up of information about shutdowns from April 8, 2011: Past Government Shutdowns: Key Resources.

Regardless, there was almost uniform agreement among government insiders that the shutdown threats, ongoing continuing resolutions and general budget upheaval have an enormous impact on the government’s ability to accomplish agency missions. (Going out on a limb there, aren’t we?)

To be honest, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget has seemed to put forward 12 fairly reasonable principles for the discussion — regardless of political viewpoint.

The 12 principles are:

  • Make Deficit Reduction a Top Priority.
  • Propose Specific Fiscal Targets.
  • Recommend Specific Policies to Achieve the Targets.
  • Do No Harm.
  • Use Honest Numbers and Avoid Budget Gimmicks.
  • Do Not Perpetuate Budget Myths.
  • Do Not Attack Someone Else’s Plan Without Putting Forward an Alternative.
  • Refrain From Pledges That Take Policies Off the Table.
  • Propose Specific Solutions for Social Security, Health Care, and the Tax Code.
  • Offer Solutions for Temporary and Expiring Policies.
  • Encourage Congress to Come Up With a Budget Reform Plan as Quickly as Possible.
  • Remain Open to Bipartisan Compromise.

Find the September 1997 CRS report after the break…

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Written by cdorobek

December 16, 2011 at 2:02 PM

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