With the budget impasse in Congress unresolved as of The Almanac's press time on Dec. 28, NASA officials were expected to furlough nearly 17,000 employees and contractors across the space agency's facilities. At the Ames Research Park near Mountain View, this meant just under 1,200 workers were put on unpaid leave.
An updated NASA shutdown memo drafted last week notes that a baseline of staff would be kept on hand to monitor critical functions involving space operations and security. About 44 employees would remain on the job at Ames, according to the work plan.
The shutdown also resulted in the Ames Research Park closing down all tours and public access.
During a similar threat of government shutdown earlier this year, the USGS reported it would need to furlough about 500 employees from the Menlo Park and Moffett Field campuses. USGS spokeswoman Catherine Puckett said in a Dec. 26 email that she has been "prohibited from conducting work as a Federal employee, including returning phone calls and emails, until further notice."
According to the Department of the Interior, the USGS planned to suspend all activities except those needed to "protect life and property." The agency planned to permit 75 of its 8,032 employees nationwide to work as needed, mainly to operate the National Earthquake Information Center (NEIC) in Colorado and the Earth Resources Observation and Science Center (EROS) in South Dakota.
Up to 450 employees would remain on call in case of natural disasters or spacecraft emergencies.
The shutdown closed federally run parks; however, the Golden Gate National Recreation Area announced on Dec. 22 that sites such as Alcatraz Island and Crissy Field would remain open.
More than 800,000 federal employees in charge of nonessential services nationwide were expected to be affected by the furloughs. Postal service, airport security, military and emergency personnel continue to work. Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid functions are all expected to stay open, according to reports.
The experience of bringing federal services to a grinding half has become all too familiar in recent years. As recently as last January, a similar budget impasse centered on immigration policy led to a three-day government shutdown.
In 2013, a budget feud over austerity measures caused a shutdown that lasted about two and a half weeks. The full cost to the national economy was estimated to be $24 billion, according to Standard & Poor.
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