Federal agencies preparing for shutdown, White House says

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Federal agencies are preparing to operate at reduced levels if a government shutdown occurs, but the Obama administration hopes to strike a deal with congressional Republicans to avoid one, the White House said Tuesday.

By March 4, lawmakers must pass a short-term resolution to continue funding the government, or President Obama and congressional leaders can strike a deal on how to fund government operations for the final seven months of fiscal 2011. Failing to do so would prompt at least a partial shutdown affecting various agencies and functions.

“There have been contingency plans for government shutdowns since 1980, and those plans are obviously updated accordingly, but they’ve been around for a long time,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said Tuesday. The White House is hoping to reach an agreement with lawmakers soon, he said.

Federal agencies must maintain plans “for an orderly shutdown in the event of the absence of appropriations,” according to Office of Management and Budget guidance issued each year to agency officials. The plans must include estimates of how long it would take agencies to complete a shutdown and the number of employees that would need to work during one, OMB said.

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