• Sequestration already eroding U.S. research capabilities

    As congressional budget leaders continue negotiations over Fiscal Year 2014 spending levels, three organizations representing the U.S. leading public and private research universities say that the results of a new survey reveal the pernicious impact of sequestration on scientific research across the country. Budget cuts have already led to fewer grants, cancelled projects, staff reductions, and reduced learning opportunities. “If Congress fails to reverse course and doesn’t begin to value investments in research and higher education, then the innovation deficit this country is facing will worsen as our foreign competitors continue to seize on this nation’s shortfall,” the leader of one of the organizations said.

  • Unjustified overtime pay routinely used by DHS employees

    A report by the Federal Office of Special Counsel (OSC) offers details of what it calls a “gross waste of government funds” and a “profound and entrenched problem”: illegally claimed overtime by DHS employees. The practice, which may add up to 25 percent to an employee’s paycheck, has become so routine that it is often promoted as a perk when managers try to recruit new employees.

  • S&P: U.S. government shutdown shaved 0.6 percent off Q4 annualized GDP

    Standard & Poor’s said the U.S. government shutdown trimmed 0.6 percent off fourth quarter growth, taking $24 billion out of the economy. S&P notes that in September, the rating agency expected 3 percent annualized growth of the U.S. economy in the fourth quarter, but that that expectation was based on the assumption that “politicians would have learned from 2011 and taken steps to avoid things like a government shutdown and the possibility of a sovereign default. Since our forecast didn’t hold, we now have to lower our fourth-quarter growth estimate to closer to 2 percent.” S&P warns that “If people are afraid that the government policy brinkmanship will resurface again, and with it the risk of another shutdown or worse, they’ll remain afraid to open up their checkbooks. That points to another Humbug holiday season.”

  • Budget impasse halts enforcement of chemical plants safety standards

    Security experts say that short of a direct nuclear attack on a U.S. city, the most dangerous, mass-casualty catastrophe the United States faces is a terrorist attack on, or an accident in, a chemical facility which would release toxic clouds over neighboring cities and towns. The federal government partial shutdown is making it impossible to enforce safety and security standards formulated to strengthen the ability of thousands of U.S. chemical facilities to withstand terrorist attacks.

  • ASCB: U.S. scientific research will "pay dearly" for shutdown

    The American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) added its voice to those of other scientific and professional groups in warning that the federal government’s partial shutdown will hurt patients, researchers, and especially the U.S. research effort, long after an agreement to end the impasse is reached. “As America keeps hitting the brakes on scientific research, we are, in effect, accelerating the damage done to our continued leadership in global bioscience, in health outcomes and in the economic power that we have always derived from basic research,” Dr. Bertuzzi, executive director of the ASCB said. “Americans will pay dearly for these slowdowns, sequestrations, and shutdowns in finding cures and on maintaining economic competitiveness.”

  • Furloughs hamper U.S. ability to respond to chemical disasters

    Rafael Moure-Eraso, the chairman of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board(CSB) warned that the agency would be unable to respond to major chemical-related disasters if the government shutdown continued. The agency has furloughed more than 90 percent of its workers. The shutdown has delayed other CSB investigations into chemical accidents in California, Utah, Washington, and Texas. Moure-Eraso said that the delays in investigations could threaten public safety as the agency is unable to make recommendations for prevention of similar accidents.

  • ACS: Shutdown undermines U.S. innovation, competitiveness, critical services

    American Chemical Society (ACS) president Marinda Li Wu said that the budget impasse is effectively choking America’s science innovation pipeline, strangling new discoveries, future economic growth, and job creation. “[T]o shut down a critical part of our nation’s research and innovation pipeline puts our nation at a severe competitive disadvantage globally,” said Wu. “A government shutdown that closes the world’s largest research system can lead to unintended negative consequences putting at peril America’s economic growth and long-term stability.”

  • Shutdown paralyzes U.S. food safety regime

    Food safety experts this week said that the government shutdown is putting Americans at risk, as the shutdown caused all inspections of domestic food, except meat and poultry, to be halted. The shutdown comes on top of earlier budget cuts to food safety-related agencies, cuts which have already made the food safety inspection regime weaker, so that the shutdown, in the words of one knowledgeable observer, is “creating the potential for a real public health crisis.”

  • Aerospace and Defense Industry says its member companies negatively affected by shutdown

    The Aerospace Industries Association called on Congress and President Obama to pass a bipartisan solution that reopens the government as soon as possible. The association’s president said that the negative impacts of the shutdown range from industry worker furloughs on programs that support the soldiers to delays in new aircraft certification and space systems launches.

  • Shutdown affects U.S. military religious services

    A shortage of active duty Catholic chaplains has led the government to hire contract priests to offer religious services in the military. As a result of the government partial shutdown, the military has furloughed as many as fifty Catholic chaplains. They were not allowed to celebrate weekend Mass, and some were told that they would not be allowed to volunteer their services. Catholic organizations said they were outraged by the decision, which some saw as an expression of what they described as the administration’s animus toward Catholics. Observers note, however, that the Anti-Deficiency Act (ADA), which codifies the Constitutional requirement that the executive not draw money from the treasury unless authorized by Congress, specifically restricts acceptance of voluntary services or personal services beyond authorized levels “except for emergencies involving the safety of human life or the protection of property.”

  • How DHS copes with shutdown requirements

    In anticipation of a government shutdown, DHS, on 27 September 2013, has issued a 42-page document, titled “Procedures Relating to a Federal Funding Hiatus,” which details which of DHS functions and activities would cease during what the document calls a “federal funding hiatus,” and which functions and activities are exempt, or “excepted,” and would thus continue. In general, mission-essential and mission-critical functions of DHS will continue during the funding hiatus. DHS defines essential functions as “a limited set of mission-essential or mission-critical functions that must be performed to provide continuity of operations.” DHS defines mission-critical personnel as “those employees occupying positions and performing functions that must be maintained under all circumstances to ensure the safety and security of the nation and its citizens.”

  • Immigration court cases in limbo during government shutdown

    The shutdown of the U.S. federal government has left hundreds of thousands of immigration cases in limbo. Immigration lawyers note that it is likely that political asylum cases and deportation cases would be deemed non-urgent, and could thus be put off for months if the government shutdown continues. “Situations change. Memories fade. Evidence gets lost,” one immigration lawyer said. “If you have a court date now, and it is kicked off the calendar, it could be a matter of life and death.”

  • Government shutdown stymies U.S. science agencies

    A U.S. Government furloughs affecting virtually all National Science Foundation (NSF) employees and three-fourths of those at the National Institutes of Health could impact American competitiveness, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) warned. “If the government shutdown continues for a week or more, it is going to make the United States less desirable as an international research collaborator,” said an AAAS representative. “When funding is no longer reliable, many of our research partners may be unable to continue collaborating with us. That could eventually have longer-term impacts on American innovation and competitiveness.”

  • A state of disrepair: Thousands of U.S. aging bridges risk collapse

    Of the 607,380 bridges listed in the recent U.S. National Bridge Inventory, 65,605 bridges are classified as “structurally deficient” and 20,808 as “fracture critical,” with 7,795 of those bridges designated as both structurally deficient and fracture critical. Experts say this indicates significant disrepair and a risk of collapse. These 7,795 structurally deficient, fracture critical bridges carry more than twenty-nine million drivers a day.

  • Serious IT consequences if shutdown lasts

    The shutdown of the federal government, if it lasts no more than a week or so, will not seriously damage government IT operations, experts and industry insiders say. A longer shutdown, which would lead to extended furloughs for non-essential employees, will have more serious effects, as it will further depress the federal technology workforce and will deter top graduates from applying for government jobs. If Congress refuses to allow payment to furloughed employees for the time they were idled, the effect will be even more pernicious, these experts said.