Thursday, 15 December 2011

Furlough, again???!!! Why can't this congress keep our Government running??

Dear HHS Colleagues,

As we approach the end of the year, our thoughts rightfully turn to gratitude for family, friends, and colleagues.  I am tremendously grateful for the work you have done this year to advance the health and well being of the American people.  But while I would much prefer to be writing you to celebrate our many accomplishments at this point in December, we instead must once again discuss and prepare for the possible shutdown of many departmental operations due to a potential interruption in our funding. 

While Congress continues to consider an omnibus appropriations bill and extensions to the payroll tax cut and Unemployment Insurance benefits, there is no guarantee that they will finish their work before our current appropriation expires on Friday at midnight.  The President has made clear that he does not want a government shutdown.  The President has also urged the Members of Congress to complete the work they were elected to do and has made clear that there is no excuse for Congress to leave on vacation before all of its work is complete.  Given the realities of the calendar, however, prudent management requires that we plan for an orderly shutdown should Congress fail to complete its work or to pass another short-term continuing resolution that would give it more time to take up these important matters. 

Both the President and I know that the uncertainty of the current situation puts federal employees in a difficult position, and we are very much aware that a shutdown would impose hardships on many employees as well as the groups and individuals our agency serves.  As we approach the expiration of the current appropriationour leadership team will provide you with updated information as soon as it becomes available.  For now, I want to provide you with information on how the potential funding lapse – should it occur – would impact HHS employees – other than those at FDA, which has already received its FY2012 annual appropriation.

If funding lapses, the affected Federal departments and agencies would not be permitted to incur further financial obligations for activities funded by annual appropriations, except those related to the orderly suspension of operations or performance of excepted activities.  This means that some employees would be furloughed and unable to work.  Our contingency planning for the potential funding lapse includes determining which agency functions and employees are excepted from a furlough.  Should it become necessary to implement our contingency plans, non-FDA employees of HHS will receive informal notice from your manager no later than Friday, December 16 and formal notice no later than Monday, December 19 regarding the designation of your position and furlough status. 

For our FDA team, although our Fiscal Year 2012 appropriation means we do not face a risk of shutdown, a funding lapse that would affect other agencies may have some limited implications for FDA’s operations that we are working with FDA to evaluate at this time.  As the week progresses and we learn more information regarding such implications, we will share it with FDA employees and initiate any contingency plans that are needed.  We expect that, except in very limited circumstances, FDA staff will continue to work on a normal work schedule regardless of the status of other Federal agencies.

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) website,, addresses some of the questions that I know must be on your mind.  As needed, OPM will provide additional pertinent information for federal employees as the week progresses.  And our leadership team will do our very best to provide clear information about the status of events as the week progresses.

Thanks to the hard work and dedication of all of you, HHS provides critical services to the American public.  Your contributions touch people’s lives in so many significant ways, and I want you to know how deeply I appreciate your dedication and your expertise. 

Your patience and continued support are greatly appreciated.  Thank you for your continued service to the Department and the Nation. 

Kathleen Sebelius

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