When Congress shut down the government for 16 days last year following a brutal spending battle over Obamacare funding, agencies were forced to make tough decisions, including which services to stop and which employees to furlough.
Now, with the potential for another government shutdown looming over Obama’s threatened executive action on immigration, some agencies may still be unprepared to deal with such a situation.
The Government Accountability Office reviewed three departments’ practices during last year’s shutdown and then examined each of their operational and contingency plans to determine if they were better prepared now after learning what worked and what didn’t. The answer apparently is no.
The GAO found the agencies never documented what worked and what didn’t during and after the shutdown. “Documenting what actually happened once a shutdown is over including how operations were fully resumed could help agencies better prepare and plan in the event of a future shutdown,” the auditors wrote in the report.
Although the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Personnel Management guided the departments through the 16-day uncertainty, GAO officials said that the agencies should have documented the best practices they implemented in order to help them in the event of future shutdowns.
Still, the audit was mostly positive. The GAO reviewed three departments -- Health and Human Services, Transportation and Energy – and all seemed to follow proper guidelines and report accurate analyses of the shutdown’s economic impact on their agencies.
The concern is, will they be ready in the event it happens again?
It could happen, since 59 House Republicans are gearing up to fight President Obama over his immigration executive action, and lawmakers are on deadline to pass a spending bill before Dec. 11 to avoid a shutdown. But there’s no appetite for another shutdown among GOP senators, including Mitch McConnell and Mike Lee.
Nevertheless, auditors recommended that OMB require agencies to document the lessons they learned when planning for and undergoing a government shutdown. OMB said it would take GAO’s recommendation into consideration.
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