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Mechanics of Shutdown

As the government began the shutdown process, questions immediately cropped up such as which agencies will close, what is the time frame, how will the government proceed and who will continue to work? The shutdown affects those offices and employees who are paid through Congressional appropriations.  Agencies deemed critical to national safety will continue to work including:  the State department, Food and Drug Administration, FBI, Federal Prisons, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Coast Guard, Border Patrol, Immigration & Customs Enforcement, the Transportation Safety Administration and the National Weather Services.  There are exceptions such as the military and the US Postal Service  (which funds itself through postage )who will continue to get paid.


While these essential agencies can continue, their spending is monitored by the Antideficiency Act which limits amounts agencies can spend.  The act allows for four categories of spending: 1) Congressional approval for contracting or authorizing funds allows agencies to purchase items when needed.  Two prime examples are the Civil War era Feed and Forage Act and purchases made by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. 2)Emergency situations that require additional funding.  3) Functions of or necessary to the discharge of the Presidents Constitutional Duties and powers as commander and chief or for foreign relations. 4) Those government agencies and roles that protect the US from a cyber-attack or information security breach. 


The U.S. Office of Personnel Management instructed employees to be prepared to shutdown with limited notice and secure their offices within three to four hours.   Each agency is responsible for creating a contingency plan for shutdowns and assessing personnel needs and closure timelines.  These plans are generally two pages long and include estimated time for shutdown, the number of onboarded employees and the number of retained employees during the shutdown.  They also provide for essential functions of each agency.  These plans are available via the White House Website and are perfect for think, pair, share activities or quick classroom activities.


Just think of the interesting questions you can have students research? 


  • Who will feed the animals at the National Zoo during the shutdown?
  • If the National Parks are open for hiking, what happens if someone gets lost?
  • Just how many different government agencies are there?
  • Students can chart essential verses non essential government agencies?
  • What happens to funding for federal aid, food stamps, and the free and reduced lunch program?
  • Can Federal Courts continue if they cannot pay jurors?
  • If ordinary citizens are cleaning up our National Parks and are injured is the government liable?
  • What are the long term implications for the shutdown?

What questions can you think of to have students research?