J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Monday, September 30, 2013

News from the Federal Government

Last week the Library of Congress issued this announcement about the possibility of a federal government shutdown because of the impasse in the House of Representatives:
September 27, 2013
Advisory: Possible Federal Shutdown
In the event of a temporary shutdown of the federal government, beginning Tuesday, October 1, all Library of Congress buildings will close to the public and researchers. All public events will be cancelled and web sites will be inaccessible.
Websites affected include the American Memory and Thomas services.

From the National Archives and Records Administration contingency plan (P.D.F. download):
All operations funded by annual appropriations will be suspended. In the event of an appropriations lapse, NARA will immediately suspend all appropriated activities. This includes programs – such as the NHPRC [National Historical Publications and Records Commission] grants program – that are funded by sources other than annual appropriations but are performed by employees funded from annual appropriations. . . .

NARA Federal Records Centers will remain open. Where a Federal Records Center shares occupancy with archival or other appropriated operations, the portion of the facility that is used exclusively for appropriated activities will be closed to employees and the public and will be secured. . . .

NARA public websites will remain online, but will contain a banner that indicates that the National Archives is closed. The website may be updated to indicate that NARA events have been cancelled, depending on the duration of the shutdown.
Founders Online is a National Archives site. It’s still in beta, meaning it’s being worked on, and that might mean it gets frozen or taken offline if the programmers are furloughed.

As of this moment, the National Park Service webpage about the possible shutdown is being revised. The agency’s contingency plan (P.D.F. download) says, “staffing will be held to the very minimum for the protection of life, property, and public health and safety. Only personnel absolutely required to support these activities will remain on duty.” The plan calls for more than 21,000 N.P.S. employees to be furloughed if the new fiscal year starts tomorrow with no appropriations.


John L Smith Jr said...

That figures. I've been using FOUNDERS ONLINE at least a few times a week lately. :(

Charles Bahne said...

This afternoon the ranger at Minute Man National Historical Park told me that their plan is to allow pedestrian access to the park grounds; but all buildings will be closed and there will be gates or chains across the entrances to all parking lots.

G. Lovely said...

Back in July, in Austin on business, I stopped into the LBJ Presidential Library. When I tried to pay the entrance fee, I was told I couldn't and could go in for free. Ask why, I was told by the gray-haired docent the ticket sellers, as non-essential personnel, had been furloughed due to the sequester, and the volunteers could not handle money, so while the library was open and staffed, all the visitors were being let in for free. Gotta love congress.

Michael D. Hattem said...

I've been proofreading the Franklin Papers before they go up on Founders Online and even though NARA will be closing if there's a shutdown, UVA, which runs and hosts the site, will not and so the site will remain up. And, in fact, the first 20 volumes of the Franklin Papers were added to the site today, with the next 21 likely to be added by the end of the year.

J. L. Bell said...

Thanks for that news. Some of the agencies are saying that certain activities have to close down even if they involve non-federal workers or other types of funding—as long as there’s some annual appropriation involved, the law requires work to cease unless it’s deemed essential.

It’s impossible to argue that historical research is more essential than ensuring safety, access to health care, and people’s other basic needs, so those have to be the government’s priorities. The shutdown’s biggest cost for the field is probably the loss of pay and the uncertainty for thousands of federal workers who normally aid in historical research and education for the public.

J. L. Bell said...

From the Tuesday Boston Globe, here's more detail about federal facilities in this region shutting down:
And at prime leaf-peeping season, too.

Some of the places along the Freedom Trail and elsewhere are run by local governments and private organizations, and thus remain open. Thus, one can visit Buckman Tavern and the common in Lexington but not the Concord visitor center of Minute Man National Historical Park. One can visit Old South Meeting-House but not the Bunker Hill Monument.

Anonymous said...

Given our Founding Fathers had to compromise to get things started, I find it very frustrating the current President fails to do so. I guess he really doesn't get it!

J. L. Bell said...

Sorry, Anonymous, your notion of "compromise" is sadly one-sided. The Republicans in Congress have refused to go to conference committee to take up the budget that the Senate has approved. They added to their list of unrelated demands. They're threatening to force the government into default over obligations they've already helped to approve. And they can't even agree among themselves about what they're willing to accept.

The President and Senate have already agreed to start the present fiscal year at sequestration levels, though that will slow the economic recovery. And the Republicans in Congress have offered what compromise in return? They've moved from insisting on scrapping a law that's already been debated in two presidential campaigns, passed, signed, vetted by the Supreme Court, and gone into effect to insisting on delaying that law—with no promise they won't try again to scrap it a year from now.

Next time you come to share your faction's talking points, please use a name or pseudonym so we can keep track. Thank you.