Shutdown Culture is Bad Culture

I know I’ve heard the talk around government of shutdown culture and how last minute CRs are just becoming normal. Heck I think it’s even been talked about on GovLoop.

It was two days ago when I got an e-mail asking if we were covering the shutdown here on GovLoop. I remember I read the e-mail, rolled my eyes and knew that a last minute deal would be cut to avoid a shutdown. Low and behold I wake up this morning and that cut has been cut overnight. Horray no shutdown… right? Honestly, I’m not convinced it’s a good thing. Now I know that’s easier to say because I’m not a federal employee but try and hear me out.

All the faux shutdowns are leading to complacency. The word shutdown used to be a dirty word here in Washington and now it’s just common speak and that’s really not fair to the federal employee. I know if I were a fed the word “shutdown” would still scare the bajesus out me and living in a world where there are 7 or 8 times a year where I truly have to worry about my next paycheck coming isn’t a world where I’m working clear headed and am at my best.

While I’m not a fed I have worked in news and I have been a part of those days where you walk in and half the office is laid-off or there’s a fear of job loss. Whether you lose or keep your jobs those days it still effects you and not in a good spurring production kind of way.

I guess what I’m saying is I’d rather just have a 2 week shutdown, lock the doors to congress (conclave style) make them come to a full budget, see the white smoke and be done with it. In an ideal world feds still gets checks for the time off (like last time) and we move forward together as one. But I don’t see that happening in a world of last minute CRs… if you provide the opportunity for someone messing up to save face they will always take it and that’s exactly what all these CRs are doing, saving congress face and putting stress and worry on feds about what may come in the next 3 weeks.

I’ll stop rambling and wrap it up with a crazy thought: what if the federal government just went on strike until a legit full budget was completed? It won’t happen but it’d be awfully nice to flip the tables for a change and put the stress and burden elsewhere. In this economy it won’t happen but all I’m saying is that if I were a fed I’d be pissed.

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Susan Thomas

@Stephen, No one likes brinksmanship. Politicians take the federal government to the edge and then behave as if they saved the day. It’s disgusting. Even more disgusting is the failure to govern.

Julie Chase

Stephen you are right about complacency. I find it mostly with the senior feds, 50+ and more so with the WG (wage grade) vs. GS. I recall talking to a young man about it before the SCIP was cut. He said, “I’m outta here, I refuse to play games with the feds with my career. I’ve got loans to pay back and I can’t afford to wonder if I have a job or not, or if I am going to be RIF’d, furloughed, or whatever the name of the lastest game happens to be.” He did leave, for the private sector.

As for “striking”…gov employees can’t strike. (the WG’s at least), as they have a strong union behind them. The GS’s, not so much. If you are skilled labor, and it’s your labor that gets military planes in the air, ships in the water and wheels to roll on gov vehicles, you are for the most part “essential”. If you sit at a computer, not so much “essential”. It is a game, it is a culture….sadly. The CR’s are a numbers game. The bean counters will only let you have so much operating funds at a time…..trickle in so to speak. If organizations were smart, and I hate to say this, because I detest that time of year……July – September, when end of year funds are available…..purchase what you will need through April of the following year. Simple things like, paper, (a gov essential), toner, calendars for the coming year, pens, file folders various types (office supplies). If your purchasing person keeps a record of what you use, office supply wise, it’s easy to follow. The organization is good with supplies until April of the coming year, and more money is likely to come in. If you are semi industrial, purchase the things the you know the employees will need in the coming 7 months, safety items, update first aid kits, replace worn out gov supplied hand tools, etc. Most folks think that the end of year frenzy is wasted on things you don’t need….and to a certain extent that is true. But if you are smart, you will be “prepared” for endless, CR’s and money trickles…..and while everyone else is using toilet paper instead of sticky notes,…..well you get the picture.