With shutdown looming, lab employees to report to work Tuesday

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By The Staff


There has been some speculation on how a possible federal government shutdown would affect New Mexico,

The biggest question, though, is how it will affect the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

If the House and Senate can't agree on a government funding bill by Sept. 30, the federal government will shut down. And, right now, the House and Senate can't agree on a bill. They are wrangling over President Obama's health care legislation.

Most of the lab staff works for private contractors that run the lab. A consortium led by Bechtel, better known as LANS, LLC, runs LANL. There are some employees that do actually work for the federal government and there has been uncertainty as to their status.

The Los Alamos Monitor obtained an email from the lab in which LANL director Charlie McMillan stipulated that  employees should report to work Tuesday,

The email said the following:

“Without passage of a federal budget or a Continuing Resolution for Fiscal Year 2014, the government will be required to shut down everything but the most essential of functions, effective midnight September 30. However, the Laboratory has unspent funds from 2013, commonly referred to as “carryover funds”, and the ability – at least technically – to continue operating for a short period of time.

“No doubt you will see news media coverage of how other parts of the federal government will handle the possibility of a shutdown. Perhaps you will see coverage that names the Department of Energy or Los Alamos.

“My simple message to you is the following: unless and until we receive explicit direction to the contrary, all Laboratory employees should expect to report for duty as normal on October 1. That said, the flexibility to operate with carryover balances varies by program area, so we may need to make adjustments to program execution from current levels to manage this situation.

“One area in particular with limited flexibility is our Environmental Program, where due to record-setting programmatic execution and shipments to WIPP, we are left with limited carryover balances. The laboratory executive team is coordinating with our federal counterparts to develop an appropriate plan for the Environmental Program.

In the memo to employees, McMillan credited the lab’s spending decisions in the recent years.

“The fact that we have done so while maintaining excellence in our national security missions – and doing so safely and securely – is a tribute to every employee at this laboratory and an affirmation of our proactive fiscal strategy.

“I ask you to maintain your focus during these uncertain budgetary times. Watch out for each other and concentrate on the things we can control.

 “We will share more information with you as soon as we can. I thank you again for your continuing service to the nation.”