As elected officials in Washington try to agree on a continuing funding resolution averting a government shutdown, the area’s large federal workforce is bracing for its possible impact.
“At this time, prudent management requires planning for the possibility of a shutdown,” a U.S. Department of Defense spokesperson said Thursday in a statement.
In metro Augusta, about four percent of the workforce is federal workers, twice the national average, and that number does not include the thousands of government contract employees and military personnel who also pump money into the area’s economy.
Should a shutdown go as 2013’s 16-day partial shutdown, which saw about 850,000 government employees furloughed nationwide, military personnel will be exempt. But nonessential civilian workers on post could see their jobs put on hold.
“We are hopeful there is enough time for Congress to prevent a lapse in appropriations,” a statement from the Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office said.
”Failing an agreement by the deadline, a limited number of pre-designated personnel will continue operations; the rest will maintain close contact with their supervisors for specific up-to-date instructions,” it said.
The Public Affairs Office and nearly 500 other Fort Gordon personnel deemed nonessential were furloughed in 2013.
Just outside the fort’s Gate 2 in Grovetown, a union representing over 300 contracted maintenance, logistics and health care personnel who work on post awaited news of a continuation in funding.
“Nothing has been communicated to us as of yet,” said Ben Morgan, president of Transport Workers Union Local 527.
The shutdown would place government procurement on hold, but for the union’s workers, staying employed depends on how and when their contracts are funded and whether their work is deemed essential, such as food service, Morgan said.
Across the river, another large federal institution als0 braced for funding news. Various offices at Savannah River Site, including contractors Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, AECOM and the U.S. Energy Department office there declined to comment on shutdown plans.
In the 2013 shutdown, SRS liquid waste contractor Savannah River Remediation furloughed about 1,400 of its 1,760 employees. A few days later, security contractor Wackenhut furloughed 270 of its 700-person SRS workforce.
The continuing resolution would only keep the government open for a month, and that’s no way to run a government, said William Hatcher, associate professor and director of the master of public administration program at Augusta University.
“Long term for the Augusta metro area and the growth that’s going on with cyber and Fort Gordon, for the health of the state and federal government, it’s not good that we can’t have a rational budget process,” said Hatcher, who teaches government budgeting.