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4/7/2011
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Federal Shutdown Could Delay IT Projects

Project schedules could be delayed and production shut down if the government closes for business, according to Lockheed Martin.

As the threat of a government shutdown looms, work on some federal IT projects could grind to a halt if a compromise isn't reached on the federal budget, according to a top federal contractor.

Lockheed Martin, a contractor on many military and other government projects, is doing everything it can to ensure that work will go on as usual, company spokesperson Jeff Adams said Thursday.

However, the company's Chairman and CEO Bob Stevens warned Congress in February that there could be schedule delays and production breaks if the government closed for business over an inability to pass the fiscal 2011 budget, Adams said.

Stevens told employees Thursday in a memo that the impact of a government closure will vary depending on their location, function, and program, and they should look to their immediate management for guidance.

Stevens said that Lockheed will continue business as usual and is working on contingency plans for projects if the federal government does shutdown. Most of the IT projects being implemented at federal agencies rely on contractors and are funded by money allocated by the budget.

"Our facilities will remain open," Steven said. "We will continue to pay you. Your benefits will remain in force. We currently have no plans to furlough anyone."

A furlough is exactly what 800,000 federal employees -- including IT staff in agencies performing non-essential functions -- could face at midnight Friday if Congress doesn't reach an agreement on the budget. Neither the Office of Management and Budget nor the Office of Personnel Management would respond to questions about how many IT staffers would be affected by a government shutdown.

Only essential government services -- such as those key to the security of the country and the protection of citizens -- will remain open if the government is forced to shut down Friday, a senior administration official said Wednesday. A continuing resolution that's been keeping the government open for business during a prolonged Congressional stalemate over the fiscal 2011 budget expires at midnight on April 8.

Federal IT projects like the ones Lockheed oversees will fall under the same consideration to decide whether work on them will continue or not, said Richard Schum, a senior analyst at INPUT, a government market research and analysis firm.

"It is likely that many IT projects will be suspended, unless they are necessary to an excepted category," he said.

Some Web-based government services -- such as the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS's) e-Verify service, which checks employment eligibility of immigrants to the United States -- will be unavailable during the shutdown.

Other online services, such as the IRS's tax e-filing system, will continue to operate, although the agency -- in the middle of the 2010 income-tax season -- won't process U.S. tax returns still filed on paper, nor their refunds, the senior official said. Some services on government websites also will be unavailable during the shutdown, he added, though he did not give specifics.

"As for websites, most will not continue," the official said. "Only those that are part of the accepted activities will continue to operate."

INPUT's Schum said that whether federal websites remain operational also depends on whether they are considered critical or necessary for essential government functions. However, the government has not made it exactly clear whether even non-critical sites will be shut down, so it's still possible the public can access them during a shutdown, he added.

Aside from the e-Verify system, the DHS and its critical cybesecurity operations will remain largely unaffected, as will the Department of Defense and the military branches and their IT and cybersecurity operations.

Department of Veterans Affairs CIO Roger Baker said last month that his department also would be unaffected. However, the department will not be answering email during the shutdown, according to ABC News.

President Obama is still hoping to avert a shutdown, urging lawmakers to put politics aside and work through differences to get the budget passed before the deadline.

The last time the government closed for business during a budget stalemate was between December 16, 1995 and January 6, 1996, during a standoff between then President Bill Clinton and Congressional Republicans.

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