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FCC Outlines How It Would Handle Government Shutdown

Commission says it is ready to maintain critical operations; no word yet about EAS test

With Congress not yet able to agree on a funding plan to keep the federal government running, the FCC has published plans for an orderly shutdown should congressional appropriations lapse.

But as of Thursday afternoon (Sept. 28), there’s no word yet about whether next week’s scheduled national EAS test would proceed.

The House and Senate have until the end of the day on Saturday, Sept. 30, to pass a new spending deal. But in the event of a shutdown, the FCC says it will retain enough employees to maintain critical operations.

The FCC has about 1,500 full-time employees. In the plan, prepared in August and now published, the FCC says it would determine whether and for how long prior-year funds will be made available to continue all operations. [Read the plan.]

“Once prior year funds are no longer made available to fund all agency operations, the agency will furlough employees and take other actions in accordance with this plan,” the FCC states in its plan.

The commission says a suspension of operations would cease all of its activities other than those immediately necessary for the protection of life or property. In addition, nearly 183 employees — whose compensation is financed by a resource other than the annual appropriation — would be retained. That includes work related to spectrum auctions, which is funded by auction proceeds.

In addition, it plans to retain a half-dozen employees necessary to the discharge of the president’s constitutional duties and powers.

Suspended FCC activities would include consumer complaint and inquiry phone lines; consumer protection and local competition enforcement; licensing services, including broadcast, wireless, and wireline, management of radio spectrum; and equipment authorizations would not proceed, according to the FCC’s plan.

The commission says if its shutdown plan is activated, all FCC employees will be instructed to conduct an orderly shutdown of operations on the first business day following a lapse in appropriations, which would be Monday, Oct. 2. The FCC estimates the amount of time required for each employee to accomplish an orderly shutdown will not be more than four hours.

Its employees would be required to cancel all travel plans and scheduled training, and internal and external meetings would be cancelled. FCC-sponsored events would be postponed.

The threatened shutdown would take a toll on FCC employees as well as contractors the commission employs. The FCC says in its plan it would retain some contractors operating in IT and cybersecurity monitoring as well as facility service and field security guards.

The published plan does not address effects on electronic filing and database systems, nor on filing deadlines, regulatory fee payments and broadcaster recordkeeping obligations.

FEMA, which has a nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System scheduled for 2:20 p.m. EDT on Oct. 4 using IPAWs, the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System, has not responded to Radio World’s queries about whether a government shutdown would cause postponement of the test. The FCC also has not responded.

Radio World hears from our sources that as of Thursday afternoon a decision on whether the test would proceed in the event of a shutdown had not yet been made. But the people in the know also tell us that the national alerting capability itself remains functional despite funding status, and that key personnel are always in place to ensure that those systems are operational and ready for use during a national emergency.

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