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Posted at 9:25 AM ET, 02/22/2011

The unintended costs of a government shutdown

By Ezra Klein

Just anticipating a shutdown wastes a great deal of time -- agencies must understand OMB and Justice guidelines, and then develop contingency plans for reduced activities. Those plans must identify which employees are "excepted" from furloughs and which are not; those who aspire to "essential" status but do not get it receive an unwelcome message. And when regular appropriations are delayed, uncertainty about final appropriations leads many managers to hoard funds; in some cases, hiring and purchasing stops.[...]

Over the long run, the shutdown could cause other costs. Now that contractors have learned they face a risk of interrupted work, they might charge the government a premium for this risk. Knowledge that furloughs are possible may also threaten the governments' ability to attract and retain quality personnel.

That's from Roy Meyers's "Late Appropriations and Government Shutdowns: Frequency, Causes, Consequences, and Remedies" (pdf).

By Ezra Klein  | February 22, 2011; 9:25 AM ET
 
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Comments

Sheesh, have government agencies been protected from the real world for THAT long? You mean they are actually being forced to think about how they operate, which employees/functions are really critical, and which are not?

Welcome to private business in America. Every year we have to do strategic planning and contingency planning for what-ifs so that we can quickly react if the economy we operate in changes suddenly.

We don't have the luxury of just automatically adding 8% to last year's baseline, and clocking out early to go golfing.

Posted by: dbw1 | February 22, 2011 11:37 AM | Report abuse

"Sheesh, have government agencies been protected from the real world for THAT long? You mean they are actually being forced to think about how they operate, which employees/functions are really critical, and which are not?"

Pretty sure "really critical" in this circumstance means "necessary so that the nation doesn't erupt in fire and chaos," which is in some ways similar, but in many ways different from "we can probably automate or outsource our HR department."

Posted by: arm3 | February 22, 2011 1:13 PM | Report abuse

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