In the dewy morning hours, not long after the government effectively shut down, Twitter became abuzz with federal employees trying to make sense of their impending furloughs. Soon, government sites started going dark by the hour, social media accounts remained inactive and phone calls to public affairs went unanswered. And many began to wonder: Who, among all federal employees, will actually have to show up for work today?
The answer lies in Office of Management and Budget’s guidance on which employees would be deemed “exempt” or necessary to work in the event of a shutdown. Exempt, which OMB defined as “pursuant to applicable legal requirements,” has been extended in many agencies to also include roles or functions that involve the safety of life or protection of property.
There are more than 2 million government employees and as of Tuesday, 800,000 have been furloughed. The number of exempt employees varies by agency, but the nature of those positions does not. For example, 14 percent of the Department of Homeland Security will be sent home on furlough, as will 87 percent of the Commerce Department. However, offices of the chief information officer at both agencies will remain open.
More than a week before the shutdown, OMB instructed agency leaders to conduct reviews to determine which employees fell into the exempt category and to use prudent management to prepare for a lapse.
Most senior agency leaders will continue to work through the shutdown, with a very small support staff. In most agencies, the office of CIO is still open and performing basic functions deemed necessary.
At the Commerce Department, a total of six employees will be working out of the OCIO. The deputy CIO is responsible for assisting the CIO and chief technology officer in protecting and maintaining the IT infrastructure and related technology functions. Commerce also has a three-person IT specialist team to keep computers up and running for exempt staff.
The General Services Administration will keep a significant support system in its OCIO; CIO, deputy CIO, chief information security officer and director of acquisition of IT services will continue to work. At the Education Department, the OCIO will also be open for support, part of the only 212 exempt positions in the department.
The more than 1 million federal employees who are deemed exempt will be paid retroactively when Congress decides to fund the government. Active service members will be paid throughout the shutdown, thanks to the Military Pay Protection Act signed by the president late Monday night.