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Sandia National Laboratory officials announced Tuesday that they will be forced to begin to shut down and furlough much of the lab’s workforce by Oct. 21 if the budget impasse is not resolved.
Los Alamos National Laboratory officials, meanwhile, have told employees that the lab has a limited ability to stay open in the government shutdown.
LANL released the following statement Tuesday.
“The Administration strongly believes that Congress can quickly come to a resolution to fund the work necessary to American people. This lapse in appropriations has serious impacts on the Department’s ability to carry out its mission, including at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). While the Department was able to fund some continued activity for a short period following September 30, 2013, the continued lapse in appropriations is having a significant impact on Departmental operations,” the statement said.
“LANL has now reached the point where we need to begin standing down certain operations where there is no longer funding available to maintain full operations. Protecting Special Nuclear Material, national security information, workers, the public and the environment remains an essential function.”
LANL also announced it was suspending TRU-Waste shipments to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad beginning Monday.
The New Mexico Congressional delegation, meanwhile, is working to ensure that federal workers in New Mexico are not financially hurt in the long-term by the federal government shutdown.
New Mexico is home to roughly 27,000 federal workers, and Sandia National Laboratories and LANL employ an additional 18,000 New Mexicans.
All four lawmakers are strong supporters of the Federal Employee Retroactive Pay Fairness Act to ensure federal employees, furloughed through no fault of their own during the government shutdown, will be paid when the government reopens. Reps. Ben Ray Luján and Michelle Lujan Grisham voted for the bill, which passed unanimously in the U.S. House of Representatives on Saturday. In the Senate, Udall and Heinrich are co-sponsors of the same measure. All four lawmakers, including Senators Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall also supported a bill, which has been signed into law; ensuring members of the military will be paid during the shutdown.
Additionally, the N.M. lawmakers sent a letter to Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Ernest Moniz, urging him to ensure employees at New Mexico’s national laboratories are compensated if they are furloughed as a result of the government shutdown.
In their letter to Moniz, the lawmakers note that although workers at SNL and LANL are contract employees, “they are subject to much of the same uncertainties as their colleagues in the federal workforce.”
“Congress clearly intends that those workers who provide such vital services for our nation should be insulated from the effects of a protracted shutdown,” the lawmakers wrote.
“The Department of Energy can certify to the labs that it is an ‘allowable cost’ for them to use their appropriated dollars to compensate their employees for back pay due to any furloughs caused by a shutdown,” the lawmakers continued. “Due to the tremendous economic uncertainty currently faced by the laboratories’ workforce, we urge you to certify as soon as possible that back pay will be allowable upon the restoration of government functions. The employees of our nation’s national laboratories deserve to know that they will be fully compensated for their service to our nation.”