I deeply regret that the failure of Congress to reach a compromise on the FY-11 budget means that the possibility of a government shutdown looms ever larger. The Department has now sent three ALDCAS to the field (11 State 031766, 11 State 031767, 11 State 031768) outlining guidance for a possible shutdown. We have posted these ALDACS, together with other information, in our “Government Shutdown Information Center” on our website (www.afsa.org). Please monitor that site for news on developments. Also, please read the final paragraph of this message for important information on our “Rally to Serve America” at the Harry S. Truman Building on Friday, April 8.
We still hope that Congress will enact appropriations for 2011 (or, failing that, pass another continuing resolution) in time to avert a shutdown. If these efforts fail, however, we know that the professionals of the Foreign Service will uphold the highest standards in managing an orderly process that will enable us to resume our full range of duties as quickly as possible after a budget is passed.
A warning to all of you: Please take very seriously the State guidance that, “… no employee may work if he or she is in a non-excepted status. Employees are advised that 'work' includes reporting to work as well as using fobs, Blackberry, and teleworking.” (In preliminary briefings, Under Secretary for Management Patrick Kennedy has assured us, however, that employees may continue to use government-issued fobs and Blackberries to communicate with AFSA in the event of a shutdown. AFSA staff and officers who rely on state.gov and usaid.gov addresses will retain access to them in the event of a shutdown.) The imminent possibility of a furlough is a good opportunity for each of you to ensure that we have a current personal e-mail address for you. If you have not received this message at such an address, please take the time to send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, giving us your current non-government e-mail address.
All of us in the Foreign Service are accustomed to going the extra mile, and doing whatever it takes to get our jobs done. It goes against our instincts to simply leave work undone. But, if you are designated a “non-excepted” employee and are furloughed, you must exercise the service discipline which has guided you through your career and simply force yourself not to perform official work in any way, shape or form.
The Department has noted that Chiefs of Mission have broad authority to determine which personnel at post are necessary to conduct essential functions in the event of a shutdown. It has issued guidelines to assist COMs in making these decisions, but we may reasonably anticipate that there will be some differences among our many posts in the implementation of these guidelines. 11 State 031768 notes that, “Rotating personnel to perform excepted functions may be made at bureau and post discretion.” We encourage decision-makers to be flexible in their application of this guidance, as a means of sharing the economic losses among employees in the event of an extended shutdown. (Note that, at this point, we have no indication that furloughed employees will eventually be paid for hours not worked because of a shutdown.)
Please note that AFSA staff, including our Labor Management staff at Main State and USAID, will continue to work during a shutdown, and can be reached as usual by e-mail and phone. 11 State 031768 notes that questions regarding your rights and entitlements during a furlough may be directed to your Executive Director and Post Management Officer. It also notes that you may use grievance procedures under 3 FAM 4400 to contest decisions regarding the furlough. If you believe that decisions implementing the furlough have not been made in an evenhanded manner, please let us know. AFSA stands ready to assist its members in these uncertain times.
RALLY TO SERVE AMERICA:
AFSA, in coordination with our colleagues in AFGE, is organizing a “Rally to Serve America” this Friday, April 8, at noon in the Edward J. Kelly Park opposite the Marshall Center entrance of the Harry S. Truman Building (i.e. opposite the 21st and Virginia Ave. entrance of the Main State Building). We have alerted Members of Congress and the media to our intent to demonstrate our simple desire to do our jobs. Please come out to support this effort!