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Government Shutdown Procedures

The prospect of a government shutdown was averted for another two weeks when the President signed a bill that funds operations through March 18, 2011 (H.J. Res. 44 /Public Law 112-4).  The OFR very much hopes that a lapse in appropriations will not occur, but we need to plan for all contingencies.  What will happen to the Federal Register if there is a government shutdown? The OFR is publishing a notice to give guidance to agency customers and the public.  It appears in the Friday, March 4 issue. See the public inspection version of our funding hiatus document here.

In brief, the OFR will continue to publish documents necessary for the protection of life and property during a government funding hiatus. Our guidance is based on the Federal Register Act, the Anti-deficiency Act, and Department of Justice guidance.

By the way, this is not our first time at the shutdown rodeo. Back in 1995, we published guidance in the Federal Register informing agencies that they must certify to us that their documents are necessary to protect human life and safety or protect property. See, 60 FR 50651 (September 29, 1995). By that precedent and our new guidance (76 FR 12135), the official edition of the Federal Register will continue to appear on FDsys.gov and go in the mail to Depository Libraries.

A typical life safety document is an FAA Airworthiness Directive. Planes are still in the air during a government shutdown; and we must do our part to protect the flying public. Other agencies that regulate the private economy may have to issue documents to protect various kinds of property.  And there is no pause in natural disasters and national security situations — so we will be prepared to help agencies and the President take necessary action.

FR readers might not immediately see the effect of a government shutdown because of the lead time needed to publish our material. For example, a Monday edition of the FR is basically ready for distribution by midnight on Friday.  A Tuesday edition is closed and prepared on the prior Friday for Monday public inspection. Hastily removing documents from the Tuesday issue on Monday during a shutdown would require us to expend scarce resources unrelated to protecting human life and property. But after that, the Federal Register would slim down quite a bit.

Other OFR services would be suspended immediately, such as the currently updated e-CFR.  Because updated e-CFR and CFR information is not directly involved in protecting life and property, we would have to defer work on them until funding is restored.  The same would be true for the Daily Compilation of Presidential Documents.

UPDATED 4-8-2011:

So what about Federal Register 2.0?  FR 2.0 is not an official edition at this time, and as such, would be expendable. The basic FR posting process is completely automated using programming that was completed many months ago. But if XML bulk data feeds are not available from GPO due to staff furloughs, FederalRegister.gov will not be updated. In that case, please use the official edition of the Federal Register on FDsys, which will remain in service to publish documents that relate to the protection of life and/or property.  If FederalRegister.gov experiences a system outage, we will not be able to restore service until funding is provided.