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NASA sets due date for $20B IT contract

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NASA has extended the deadline for bids on its $20 billion Solutions for Enterprise-Wide Procurement (SEWP) V contract, following last month’s government shutdown.

The agency has extended the due date to Nov. 15, according to an online notice. Originally, companies had until Oct. 14 to bid.

NASA said the 16-day shutdown delayed its response to industry’s questions as well as changes to the solicitation.

The contract will provide agencies with desktops, laptops, servers and other information technology equipment.

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NIST cancels conference as shutdown looms

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At least one federal conference is being postponed this week because of a potential government shutdown.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology is postponing its Cloud Computing and Mobility Forum this week “because we could not guarantee NIST’s facility would be open on the first day of the meeting, Oct. 1,” according to an agency spokeswoman. “The meeting has not been rescheduled.”

More than 500 people had registered for the conference, including about 130 federal employees. Many federal employees would be forced to stay home without pay if Congress doesn’t strike a budget deal by midnight.

Just at DoD, some 400,000 employees — or about half of the civilian workforce — will be sent home on unpaid furloughs if a partial shutdown begins Tuesday, Comptroller Robert Hale said late last week. During a Sept. 27 news briefing, Hale said a shutdown would halt travel and training plans for activities not deemed excepted.

“As of today, no other conferences have been postponed,” according to NIST. “Some scheduled conferences could be affected by a shutdown, depending on the duration of the shutdown and how much lead time each conference requires.”

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Obama to feds: Thanks for standing firm during shutdown debate

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The Washington Post reports that federal employees today received the following letter from President Obama, thanking them for their “patience and professionalism” as a possible shutdown and furlough drew closer:

To All Federal Employees:

Late Friday evening we reached an agreement on the budget that will keep the Government open. I know the past few weeks have been a time of uncertainty and concern for you and your families, but your patience and professionalism throughout this entire period have affirmed my confidence in you, and everyone who works in our Government.

You do your jobs without complaint or much recognition. But it is men and women like you who help make America all it is, by responding to the needs of our people, and keeping our country safe and secure. And so, I want to thank you not only for your forbearance in recent weeks, but for the service you render each and every day to the United States of America.

Barack Obama

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Feds sing National Anthem at anti-shutdown rally

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A boisterous crowd of federal employees — who will be furloughed or ordered to keep working without pay if Congress doesn’t strike a budget deal by midnight — gathered at the Edward J. Kelly Park in Washington today at a rally organized by the American Foreign Service Association. Most of them were from the State Department or the U.S. Agency for International Development, but there were a smattering of feds from other agencies as well. (All on their lunch break, of course.)

I videotaped the tail end of a speech by Daniel Hirsch, State vice president of AFSA, and then caught AFSA President Susan Johnson inviting attendees to sing the Star Spangled Banner. This is just a taste of the mood in DC right now. Federal employees are worried and angry that their jobs are caught in the middle of a political showdown, but are expressing pride about what they do and how they serve the country.

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Moran: Congress may take 2-week Easter break during shutdown

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Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., just delivered an extremely unwelcome message to a town hall full of soon-to-be-furloughed federal employees: Congress still plans take its scheduled two-week Easter break scheduled to begin April 18, even if lawmakers haven’t solved the budget mess by then:

If you are a federal employee, I think you need to start conserving whatever financial resources you have. Be very careful about large purchases. Make sure you have enough money at least for the mortgage, or the monthly rent and car payment and so on. Because this could be extended.

We would hope and expect that if there is a shutdown that it will only last through the weekend. We of course will be on the job throughout the weekend trying to reach a resolution. An extension might last until the middle of next week. But Congress has decided that it’s going to take an Easter break, the district work period they call it. But for two weeks, Congress won’t be in session. So if there isn’t any resolution, the furlough could well extend for three or four weeks.

As you might imagine, that didn’t go over very well. One woman threw her hands up in the air in frustration, and another man angrily asked Moran, “Why don’t you stay on the job, then?” Hopefully Congress won’t be that stupid, but who knows with them. This could get ugly.

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Shutdown worries? We want to hear from you

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Federal Times is trying to keep a close eye on the government shutdown, and we’d like to hear more from the federal employees who are going to be most affected by it.

Have you heard yet whether you’re furloughed or not? How did you find out? What’s the mood like in your office? Are you angry that you’re going to be made to work without pay until Congress and the White House resolve their differences? Are you worried that losing pay during a furlough will make it tough to make ends meet?

E-mail me at slosey@federaltimes.com if you’d like to talk. (And since you aren’t supposed to access your work e-mail during a shutdown, it’ll probably be best to include additional contact information.)


Employees beginning to be told of furloughs

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Federal unions are still in the dark on agencies’ overall shutdown plans, but individual employees are starting to get the bad news about their furloughs. National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen Kelley just told me that early this afternoon, some of her members began verbally hearing from their supervisors whether they will be furloughed or retained during a shutdown. Others will receive letters this evening or tomorrow, she said.

“Typically, the smaller the agency, the quicker the information gets out,” Kelley said. “Tomorrow is the day when employees will really know.”

Kelley said she’s not sure how many people at agencies such as the IRS are being told whether they are furloughed. But she said the IRS is keeping “a substantial workforce” in place to keep operating toll-free help lines for taxpayers trying to finalize their tax returns. On the other hand, as OMB’s Jeffrey Zients said earlier, the IRS will close 400 walk-in taxpayer service centers.

And CNN reports that Congress just began distributing furlough notices to staffers.


NFFE: Still no sign of shutdown plans

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Gosh, Jeff, what's your rush?

It looks like the Obama administration is holding onto its shutdown plans until the last possible minute. Office of Management and Budget Deputy Director for Management Jeffrey Zients just told unions in a conference call that the plans would be released “within the next 24 hours,” according to Bill Dougan, president of the National Federation of Federal Employees.

Dougan is especially frustrated because Zients and Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry on Tuesday told unions that agencies would start releasing those plans as early as this morning. And at a press conference today, Zients told reporters the administration this morning ordered agencies to start notifying employees about shutdown plans and briefing unions and other stakeholders.

“I’m disappointed this is dragging on to the 11th hour,” Dougan said. “Twenty-four hours from now is essentially the end of the workday. Unions are running blind on what agencies have planned. It puts unions and employees in a bad spot, and it makes it much more difficult for employees to do the planning they need to do.”

Dougan said he suspects that by withholding the plans from unions, “it allows them to essentially control the message.” He wants to know how agencies are deciding which employees to furlough and which to retain, which he said is something unions want to negotiate over. “Yet we’re not being provided that info so it makes it impossible to negotiate.”

Dougan wouldn’t say whether he thinks that’s the administration’s motive for withholding the plans. But I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s the case. The White House already has enough headaches dealing with House Republicans. I’m sure they don’t want to start an argument with unions when so much is at stake.


Shutdown ensnares Cherry Blossom Festival, GW Parkway race

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A runner crosses the finish line at the 2010 GW Parkway Classic. A shutdown is likely to postpone this year's race. (With permission, from swimbikerunphoto.com)

The collateral damage from the increasingly-likely government shutdown is spreading. The Office of Management and Budget has decided that permits issued by the National Park Service will be revoked if there’s a shutdown, complicating matters for the National Cherry Blossom Parade and George Washington Parkway Classic race.

The Cherry Blossom Festival said they’re still planning to hold the parade Saturday and said “all possible avenues will be pursued to move ahead with the parade as scheduled.” But the kite festival and performances on the Washington Monument grounds will be canceled if the government shuts down.

And Sunday’s Parkway Classic is almost certain to be postponed in the event of a shutdown. The organizers have been trying to find a backup plan to keep the 5-kilometer and 10-mile races on schedule. (Full disclosure: I was planning on running the race too.) The race begins at Mount Vernon and continues up the George Washington Memorial Parkway, which is operated by the National Park Service.

But race director Kathy Dalby said in an interview that the chance of getting an exemption permitting the event to go on “does not look good.”

“It all comes down to the permit,” Dalby said.

The race also relies on about 35 Park Police officers to set up barricades, provide security and run traffic control, and Dalby said that trying to get local police to fill in on such short notice “would be quite the logistical nightmare.”

The race will probably be rescheduled for May 1. Dalby said that if the government is still shut down by then, they’re working on an alternative plan to run the race entirely in the city limits of Alexandria, Va.

“The race will go on, one way or another,” Dalby said. “Just maybe at a later date.”


80% of DHS staff will work during shutdown

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If the government shuts down this week, most Department of Homeland Security employees will continue working.

DHS spokesman Larry Orluskie said 80 percent of the department’s 230,000 workforce will continue to carry out mission critical duties, such as securing the borders, screening cargo and airline passengers and operating and securing systems that support these activities.

“We’re working with the guidance, and we’re working with our business and mission partners to identify those systems that have to stay up,” said Richard Spires, DHS’ chief information officer. ”We’re prepared, and we will keep those systems running.”

That includes determining which contracts are mission critical.

Communications between “excepted” and “non-excepted” employees will flow through a chain of command. For example, higher-level officials will contact the next in command and so on. Calls will go to personal phones if employees are required to turn in their government-issued phones.