Potential Lapse in Appropriations

Last edited 09/29/2021

To:        All Department of the Interior Employees
From:        Secretary Sally Jewell
Subject:     Potential Lapse in Appropriations


As we experienced in 2013, the U.S. Government is again faced with a situation where Congress must act over the next few days to avoid a lapse in appropriations at midnight, September 30. While we are all hopeful this will not occur, it is important that we take steps to plan for this contingency as referenced by Deputy Secretary Connor in his email to all of us on September 22.

I am very mindful of the fact we would all prefer to be focused on carrying out our critical missions on behalf of the American people, and I appreciate your support in this uncertain time as we hope for the best, but continue to plan for all contingencies.

All Federal employees are being provided with the following update on planning with regard to a potential lapse in appropriations that would occur at midnight on September 30, if Congress does not act:

The Administration continues to strongly believe that a lapse in funding should not occur.  
There is enough time for Congress to prevent a lapse in appropriations, and the Administration
is willing to work with Congress to enact a short-term continuing resolution to fund critical Government operations and allow Congress more time to negotiate an agreement on a 2016 budget.  However, prudent management requires that we continue to prepare for all contingencies, including the possibility that a lapse could occur at the end of the month.  

As part of our effort to keep employees apprised of planning efforts, we are providing further information on how a potential lapse will affect our staff and operations.  As was the case in 2013, under a lapse in funding, our actions and decisions about what operations continue are governed by legal opinions issued by the Attorney General and the Office of Legal Counsel 
of the Department of Justice.  

In consultation with our Solicitor’s Office, we have reviewed our contingency plan and made any necessary updates to our determinations of the activities that may continue under these legal requirements.  Similarly, we have made any necessary updates to our determinations of the employees who would continue to report to work in the event of a lapse in funding, and the employees who would be placed on furlough.  As we saw in 2013, should a lapse occur, and depending on the length of the lapse period, these determinations may change over time as circumstances evolve.  Importantly, the categorization of employees and whether or not someone is furloughed is not a reflection on the quality of an employee’s work, nor of his or her importance to our Agency.  It is merely a reflection of the legal requirements that we must operate under should a lapse occur.

Managers will begin reaching out to you to provide additional detail on our contingency plans and your status under a potential lapse.  These conversations are designed to provide clarity on how a potential lapse will affect you, but they do not constitute an official notice of furlough.  Official furlough notices will only be issued on October 1, if a lapse in funding has occurred.

The uncertainty of the current circumstances puts our workforce in a difficult situation, and should a lapse occur, it could impose hardships on many employees as well as the people that we serve every day.  We will work closely with all staff to do our best to support you throughout this period.  

Whether your work is highly visible or behind the scenes, I am proud of the contributions you make to steward America’s resources, support sound science, power our economy, and uphold our Nation’s responsibilities to the First Americans and Insular Areas.  I will continue to work with our partners in the Administration and Congress to support the continuity of our important work.  Thank you again for your dedication and patience through this process, and for your continued service to the Department of the Interior, the Nation, and the American people.  

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