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Los Alamos to employees: shutdown or not, show up for work next Tuesday

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Amid uncertainty over the impact of a federal government shutdown on New Mexicans, Los Alamos National Laboratory workers have an answer: show up for work on Tuesday.

Employees at Sandia and Los Alamos national labs, while paid out of the federal budget, work for the private contractors that run the labs: Lockheed Martin in the case of Sandia and a consortium led by Bechtel in the case of Los Alamos. As such, there has been uncertainty over whether a shutdown affecting direct federal employees would also force the labs to send their workers home. Lab and federal officials have repeatedly refused this week to answer that question. But in an email to Los Alamos staff today obtained by the Journal, lab management clarified the situation there:

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 a telephone news conference this morning, Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., said the carryover funding was sufficient to last about a week.

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