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Preparing for a Partial Federal Government Shutdown

As you may already know, the United States government is facing a partial shutdown this weekend. In September, Congress passed and President Trump signed a spending bill that will fund 75 percent of government agencies through September 2019. However, several agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, are at risk of running out of funds.

The Office of Research and Engagement has been closely following the situation. As of Friday morning, December 21, President Trump has stated that he will not sign a proposed stopgap spending bill that would fund the affected agencies through February 8. The previous spending bill funds the government through 11:59 p.m. today (December 21).

ORE will continue to share updated information with the campus at research.utk.edu/budget-outlook as well as on Facebook and Twitter and through the Catalyst newsletter, as we have in previous shutdowns. We hope that a shutdown will be averted and these precautions will prove unnecessary.

If a shutdown does occur, here are some likely outcomes:

  • Possible stop work orders: During the FY13 shutdown, some agencies issued stop work orders for field research programs (for example, the US Fish and Wildlife Service). This impacted the pay for some graduate students and staff, but departments were able to temporarily cover those costs.
  • Proposal submittals: Generally speaking, ORE would likely continue to process proposals. We expect that grants.gov would be maintained by the agencies so that proposals can be submitted to be held in queue and processed after the shutdown ends as in FY13. Other agencies that use web-based portals (for example, the National Science Foundation) may shut down their websites entirely, meaning no proposals could be submitted to those agencies.
  • New awards: New awards are likely to be delayed until after the shutdown is over. Please be very cautious about spending funds before an award document is received. All expenditures must occur in the period of performance.
  • Routine administration of grants and contracts by the agencies: It is expected that requests for rebudgeting, no cost extensions, award continuations, and other action decisions would be significantly slowed down.
  • Access to federal facilities: It is also likely that federal facilities may not be available during a shutdown. Faculty should inquire directly with those facilities.
  • Availability of funds: Most agencies would likely continue to allow automatic drawdowns. We do not anticipate any changes in fund availability as long as the shutdown is minimal.

If you have questions, contact Jean Mercer, assistant vice chancellor for research and director of sponsored programs (jmerce10@utk.edu, 865-974-3466).

Thank you,

Robert Nobles signature

Robert Nobles
Interim Vice Chancellor for Research