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National Labs Unaffected by Possible Government Shutdown

Unspecified funds allow operations to continue without staff furloughs.

The Department of Energy is downplaying a threat of a federal government shutdown on operations at the and California national laboratories.

The DOE announced in a statement Thursday that none of its employees or contractors would be furloughed next week in the event of a federal government shutdown Friday. Federal agencies would be forced to cease nonessential services Monday, if Congress is unable to pass a long-stalled fiscal year 2011 federal budget.

Federal spending has been authorized by a series of short extensions since the previous budget expired in October. Congressional leaders announced progress Thursday in contentious deliberations for a budget, but a government shutdown remains a possibility when the current two-week extension expires Friday.

The DOE statement noted the department has some “no-year” funds that would support department operations for a limited time. DOE chairman Steven Chu announced in a department-wide memo Thursday that DOE federal employees are expected to report to work as usual on their next scheduled work day even if a new funding bill is not enacted Friday.

Paul Hommert, president and laboratories director of Sandia in Albuquerque, N.M., touched on the same themes in a staff memo. Unspent funds can be used to pay regular employees and part-time personnel in the short term, he noted.

The same situation applies at LLNL, said Lynda Seaver, media and communications manager. As a government contractor, lab management can draw on cash reserves for new operations.

“We have enough to support ourselves for a while, so everyone will report to work on Monday," Seaver said. “But we will await further guidance from the Department of Energy on what we should be doing.”

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is a government-owned, contractor-operated research facility managed through a contact between Lawrence Livermore National Security, a public-private consortium, and the DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration.

According to its 2010 annual report, LLNL funding largely comes from the NNSA Office of Defense Programs. Other key funding sources are the NNSA Office of Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Defenses and other federal agencies.

Sandia California is also part of the DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration. Research conducted the Sandia lab involves energy, homeland security, nuclear weapons management and nuclear nonproliferation. It is managed for NNSA by defense contractor Lockheed Martin.

Grant B April 10, 2011 at 04:16 PM
James, Your title is very misleading and simply not true. You should really add at the end "in the short term". As an employee of these National Labs in New Mexico, it is VERY possible that we will be shut down for a while, long-term if congress does not pass funding towards DOE. To have a title saying that our jobs are unaffected is simply not true. You even stated it yourself, we received emails in the workplace that says we will be able to continue to work short-term due to funding that was not spent in the previous years, money that was saved by the DOE. That means we could have possibly weeks to a few more months of being funded before that money saved simply runs out. You just really need to revise this article.

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