Planning for a shutdown

[Update 11:35 pm: Fortunately, these shutdown preparations will not have to be enacted. Congress and the White House have agreed on a budget deal for the rest FY11, and will pass a seven-day CR tonight to give them enough time to finalize the legislation and pass it.] If no agreement is reached on a fiscal year 2011 budget by midnight tonight, shuttle launch preparations will cease, work on other satellite missions under development will stop, and, if you were planning to while away the weekend watching some action-packed NASA TV programming, you're out of luck. A memo from NASA CFO Beth Robinson outlines the agency's plans in the event of a shutdown caused by the lack of a FY11 budget or continuing resolution. According to the memo, operations of the ISS and other active spacecraft would continue during a shutdown, and there would also be an allowance for an orderly completion or shutdown of other research "in cases where serious damage to property would result from temporary suspension of the activity." Other activities across the agency intended to "protect life and property" will also continue, and contractors can keep working on projects under contracts obligated prior to the shutdown so long as NASA facilities and personnel are not required for that work. Had the shuttle been in orbit, or in the final phases of countdown to launch, its operations would have also continued, but in this case only those operations needed "to monitor and maintain the safety of the assets" will continue. Some activities included in the memo that will not continue during a shutdown include educational projects, tours of NASA centers, NASA web sites, and "televised access to NASA operations and programming". (Florida Today does note that the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex would remain open since it is privately run, and apparently tour buses would still be allowed on center property during a shutdown.) The table at the end of the memo makes it clear that the vast majority of NASA personnel would be furloughed in the event of a shutdown. Of the agency's 19,014 employees, only 481 full-time equivalents (FTEs) would be exempted on a full- or part-time basis during a shutdown, with nearly half of those at JSC (reflecting, presumably, ISS operations.) Only 6 of the nearly 1,700 personnel at the Glenn Research Center would be exempted fro furlough, and only 22 of the 1,600-plus at Headquarters. A larger number-nearly 2,000 agency-wide-would be available "on call" if necessary for specific tasks.

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