Congressional stalemate affects operations across the government, leaving many agency websites and services unavailable.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Department of Commerce (DOC) posted similar disclaimers on their sites, alerting visitors about limited services. NOAA posted this message: "NOAA.gov and most associated web sites are unavailable. However, because the information this site provides is necessary to protect life and property, it will be updated and maintained during the federal government shutdown." Weather.gov is the only site that remains active.
Meanwhile, the Commerce Department, which manages the U.S. Census Bureau, the International Trade Administration, the U.S. Patent Office, NOAA, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and other economic development agencies, said that information on its website will not be updated until the government reopens. It also warned visitors, "Transactions submitted via this website might not be processed and we will not be able to respond to inquiries until after appropriations are enacted."
According to the Commerce Department's plan for agency operations, most research activities at NIST and NOAA have been suspended, with the exception of real-time regular models on research computers used for hurricane and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) flight planning.
In a letter to federal employees on Oct. 1, President Obama vowed to keep working with Congress to reopen the government and restore services. "Hopefully, we will resolve this quickly… And make sure that you receive the pay that you have earned," Obama said in the letter.
The magnitude of furloughs now affecting federal agencies can be gleaned from contingency documents that the White House Office of Management and Budget requires of federal agencies. A review of those documents reported that nearly 800,000 employees were to be furloughed in the event of a shutdown. That includes roughly half of the civilian employees working for the Department of Defense. The figures do not include active-duty uniformed military personnel.
The balance of employees not slated for furloughs were expected to report to work to support essential public services and for national security, even though it remains unclear whether Congress will pay them retroactively for their service, as they have during past shutdowns.
In a number of instances, employees designated as non-essential during a shutdown were still asked to report for work, as was the case with Department of Energy employees.
How and when the Congressional stalemate over federal funding will be resolved remains hard to answer. But experts are already predicting the shutdown will be costly to the government as well as to government contractors and add significant risks to federal IT operations.
Stan Soloway, president and CEO of the Professional Services Council, notes that a backlog of contracts are already clogging up the delivery of services for federal agencies. "If you don't have sufficient acquisition folks working, it's just going to make the clogging worse," he said. "If [the shutdown] is just a day or two, it won't be that bad. If it's longer, like the one in 1996 that was 22 days, it will be much worse."