NASA Updates Government Shutdown Plans

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WASHINGTON — More than 95 percent of NASA’s workforce would be furloughed should the government shut down on Oct. 1, according to an updated agency plan, even as the chance of such a scenario decreases.

In a Sept. 25 memo to the White House Office of Management and Budget, NASA Chief Financial Officer David Radzanowski described NASA’s plans to halt most agency operations should Congress not pass a continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government when the new fiscal year begins Oct. 1. The memo was an update to the plan the agency implemented during the October 2013 government shutdown.

That plan exempts from furloughs those personnel involved in the “protection of life and property” across NASA facilities. Operations of the International Space Station would continue in the event of a shutdown. An upcoming 45-day thermal vacuum test of flight hardware for the James Webb Space Telescope would also take place even if there is a shutdown, the memo states, “as any disruption risks damage to hardware for which there are no spares.”

The vast majority of NASA civil servants, however, would be furloughed if the government shuts down. According to a table included in the memo, 295 full-time and 368 part-time employees, out of a total of 17,524 employees, would be excepted from furlough. An additional 1,375 employees would be available on an on-call basis.

NASA and other government agencies are updating their shutdown plans because Congress has yet to pass a CR to fund the government when the new fiscal year begins Oct. 1. Passage of a CR has been tied up in debates on whether to include provisions to deny funding to Planned Parenthood. However, the Senate is expected to vote as soon as Sept. 28 on a “clean” CR without such provisions, and House leadership is also developing a strategy to pass a clean CR.