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Goverment shutdown and active space operations


hugix
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Leme start  : I am not a us citizen and do not know how a shutdown exactly works. Thats why I made this thread. Please no politics.

 

Today I saw this tweet : 

https://twitter.com/gpallone13/status/955118574988865536

Apparently the static fire test is now indefinitely postponed since the government can't support SpaceX with their work. This got me thinking, how does NASA operate during a shutdown? From my understanding a shutdown means a whole lot of personnel can't get paid and therefore do not do their work. And since NASA is a body from the US government I think this also means their staff stays home. But who  can;t do their jobs now? 

 

I understand that the critical tasks, like the guys in Houston monitoring the space station keep working. (And the us astronauts probably also). But are they operating full strength? Or just as a skeleton crew? And what about the less critical missions? Does Curiosity still drive around to perform science? Is hubble still being operated? How does such a shutdown mess with active missions?

 

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Keeping out of politics, who out there in the private sector that you know has a non-essential job for their business?

If I briefly had anyone I realized wasn’t needed to function—I’d fire them. Short of having a few percent extra capacity to cover people out sick, or on vacation, that is.

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3 minutes ago, tater said:

Keeping out of politics, who out there in the private sector that you know has a non-essential job for their business?

If I briefly had anyone I realized wasn’t needed to function—I’d fire them. Short of having a few percent extra capacity to cover people out sick, or on vacation, that is.

I think it's more of "non-essential in the short run". In the short run, you don't need advertising personnel, recruitment staff, most of R&D (except those maintaining certain projects), etc. In the long run, things go very downhill if you don't have those personnel. Fortunately for businesses, they generally don't have squabbles between the CEO and CFO resulting in shutting down non-essential operations, and can continue to operate year-round.

Regardless, I suspect it's a relatively case-by-case basis for what parts of NASA stop operating. I'm not privy to exactly what gets shut down, but I suspect most current operations stay running, while planning and research staff might be told to go home unless there's something that absolutely must be kept running.

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Many (most?) businesses have no R&D. Advertising is outsourced, usually. Recruitment can be a thing, but it’s tiny.

I am honestly curious what the deadweight employee load is for the feds. My gut says it’s high. Any non-essential function should likely not be a thing (we have a document that enumerates the essential functions, after all, and very few they are).

 

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21 minutes ago, tater said:

Many (most?) businesses have no R&D. Advertising is outsourced, usually. Recruitment can be a thing, but it’s tiny.

I am honestly curious what the deadweight employee load is for the feds. My gut says it’s high. Any non-essential function should likely not be a thing (we have a document that enumerates the essential functions, after all, and very few they are).

 

I was a fed contractor -- regulatory enforcement in the energy sector -- during the last extended shutdown in 2013. My job was suspended during the shutdown because although I was necessary for ongoing litigation and safety reviews, nothing I was doing couldn't be postponed a few weeks. All long-term projects were put on hold. We stopped new-construction permitting and open cases/court dates were continued. About half of my actual fed-employee coworkers were furloughed; the other half worked in half-day shifts from home in case there was a major accident that required emergency response.

Next week, I expect a lot of administrative offices to be closed. Medicare offices will run on a reduced crew...still processing existing applications, for example, but not taking new applications or  processing subrogation claims.

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They could solve this by eliminating omnibus bills altogether. One thing to be funded, one bill. No one can claim, “I didn’t vote for X because it failed to also cover Y.”

Edited by tater
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Government shutdowns happen more often then the public realizes. In fact, there were several under President Obama, and a few before him. It happens all the time due to the funding bills being unable to be passed either due to political issues or something else. All it means is that the government services are shut down during that time, not our military. Anything funded by the government is affected unless it has its own allocation of funds to run off of. Anything that would cost the government a deficit is affected.

It's all basically what @sevenperforce said. He nailed it on the head.

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49 minutes ago, tater said:

Keeping out of politics, who out there in the private sector that you know has a non-essential job for their business?

If I briefly had anyone I realized wasn’t needed to function—I’d fire them. Short of having a few percent extra capacity to cover people out sick, or on vacation, that is.

In the private sector, you could consider stuff like quality or safety, maintenance or janitorial work as "non-essential"... for a while. The same is true for what people consider "non-essential" government work. The country can function for a few weeks without EPA inspectors, postal service, national parks, NASA, road maintenance, garbage collecting, or schools, but that work is still essential if you want to have a properly functioning country, and nobody is going to do that work if the government doesn't.

And I can assure you, there is a lot of dead wood in the private sector too. In my experience, large corporations aren't very different from large administrations.

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I’m only familiar with smaller businesses that have nearly zero excess baggage.

NASA likely only keeps going with stuff that is in progress (probes sending data, Crew mission support, etc). Space stuff for national security likely goes as well.

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1 hour ago, tater said:

Keeping out of politics, who out there in the private sector that you know has a non-essential job for their business?

If I briefly had anyone I realized wasn’t needed to function—I’d fire them. Short of having a few percent extra capacity to cover people out sick, or on vacation, that is.

People have their job description... just look that up and see if it's sensible.

 

IMO this "shutdown" thing isn't really necessary. If people really want it, they can gather some money... or just do it.

Maybe NASA needs another public patron ?

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6 minutes ago, tater said:

I’m only familiar with smaller businesses that have nearly zero excess baggage.

NASA likely only keeps going with stuff that is in progress (probes sending data, Crew mission support, etc). Space stuff for national security likely goes as well.

Anything natsec is considered essential. Contractors will be furloughed but anything DoD, Homeland Sec, etc. will be at full capacity.

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1 hour ago, sevenperforce said:

Anything natsec is considered essential. Contractors will be furloughed but anything DoD, Homeland Sec, etc. will be at full capacity.

Its still Sunday much of the ground operations and Admin aren't working anyway.

The problem is for any operation at Kennedy is the sites range officer. So then it can trickle down to SpaceX

2 hours ago, sevenperforce said:

I was a fed contractor -- regulatory enforcement in the energy sector -- during the last extended shutdown in 2013. My job was suspended during the shutdown because although I was necessary for ongoing litigation and safety reviews, nothing I was doing couldn't be postponed a few weeks. All long-term projects were put on hold. We stopped new-construction permitting and open cases/court dates were continued. About half of my actual fed-employee coworkers were furloughed; the other half worked in half-day shifts from home in case there was a major accident that required emergency response.

Next week, I expect a lot of administrative offices to be closed. Medicare offices will run on a reduced crew...still processing existing applications, for example, but not taking new applications or  processing subrogation claims.

Yeah if you happen to reach your 70th this week good luck collecting that first social security check in a few weeks.

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Depending on what contractors are doing, they may be considered essential.

Our department shares the office with the Engineering Drawing Control Center.  They have all the technical drawings for both facilities (building floor plans, wiring, plumbing, etc.) and flight operations (spacecraft, components, hatches, wiring, cargo packing, etc.).  They have a three person staff.  During the last shutdown, they were reduced to a single person in the office, rotating who was on duty, because it was considered critical that such drawings be available on short notice, just in case.  Our department was not considered essential, since our work was not time-sensitive.  We were able to continue working on some of our activities at home, using personal or company equipment, with no use of government resources.  This time, we don't have the same sort of workload, so we are not sure what will happen with us.  Last time, the company allowed us to use vacation time, and reimbursed us after the shutdown ended.  This time, it's a new company on a new contract, so we don't yet know what will happen.  Our contract/company is receiving instruction from the agency, and we will report to work Monday to receive our instructions.

Astronauts on ISS, iirc, are not allowed to perform experiments.  Operations are limited to keeping the station in stable condition, and anything needed to preserve life and safety.  MCC staff is also operating to ensure safety.

Ongoing missions with probes on planets or in space are able to send data back, but once the data is received, there's no analysis allowed until the shutdown is over.  New missions are not started, however special exemption may be given to time-critical missions, since planetary alignments don't give a rat's posterior about toddlers fighting over pennies.

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3 hours ago, Nibb31 said:

In the private sector, you could consider stuff like quality or safety, maintenance or janitorial work as "non-essential"... for a while. The same is true for what people consider "non-essential" government work. The country can function for a few weeks without EPA inspectors, postal service, national parks, NASA, road maintenance, garbage collecting, or schools, but that work is still essential if you want to have a properly functioning country, and nobody is going to do that work if the government doesn't.

And I can assure you, there is a lot of dead wood in the private sector too. In my experience, large corporations aren't very different from large administrations.

Would add in product development and marketing as non non-essential short term. 

As for deadwood in large cooperation, oil industry in Norway managed to cut cost 40% after oil price fell, yes a lot was just waste, knew consultants who was hired for projects full time but did not get work assignments or access to systems for weeks after repeatably requesting them. 

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OK, since nobody has explained this:

There are many different types of funding sources for activities of the US government. Some activities have dedicated funding sources -- bonds, taxes, contracts where outside sources are hiring the government to do something. These are not directly affected by the shutdown.

Other cases are where the government has a long-term authorization for spending the money and does not need Congress to reauthorize it. Social security falls under this, but so do many multi-year funded programs. These are also not directly affected by the shutdown.

Finally, there is the bulk of what people think of as "the government", which is most of the regular day-to-day people that work in the offices and out on the launch pads and wherever. These people are paid by money that Congress reauthorizes every so often. These are the people affected by the shutdown.

But as others have mentioned above, not all of these people are affected. Those who are deemed immediately necessary (air traffic control, many defense workers, police and fire, etc.) are authorized to continue working. Those who are not are furloughed without pay. (Usually when the shutdown is ended, they are given back pay for the hours they would have worked.)

This is not a matter of "dead wood". It's a matter of *immediate* safety versus long-term safety. For instance, government food and drug inspectors are shutdown because it is assumed that their jobs, wile important in the long term, won't cause an immediate crisis if they are not done. Likewise, while air traffic control is still active, the FAA certification offices shut down. They are not "dead wood", but planes aren't going to be crashing into each other without them.

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^ What @mikegarrison said. Each department has a list of positions that are deemed "essential" or "nonessential", and in some cases nonessential positions can be exempted.
 I don't think that anyone knows for sure which nonessential workers (if any) have been exempted or which are essential. All we know for sure is that there won't be any launches in the meantime unless there's an emergency.

Best,
-Slashy

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Just now, GoSlash27 said:

^ What @mikegarrison said. Each department has a list of positions that are deemed "essential" or "nonessential", and in some cases nonessential positions can be exempted.
 I don't think that anyone knows for sure which nonessential workers (if any) have been exempted or which are essential. All we know for sure is that there won't be any launches in the meantime unless there's an emergency.

Best,
-Slashy

But also keep in mind that things that alrady have been paid for - funds allotted by budgetary requirements - will still continue to function as normal until the:

  1. funds are depleted for that project and there's cost overrun.
  2. mission is completed as paid for by the national government or government agency.

There's a misconception that a government shut-down means ALL government activity ceases to happen. And this simply is not the case. Within NASA, I have been told that the tracking of NEOs will continue (national security interests) as well as continual global weather monitoring by NOAA. Programs which may be hurt the worst are SETI, JPL, and operations at the Stennis Space Center.

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And still we wait.

The only official update we've gotten is that we're waiting for the people that make decisions to finish waiting and make a decision.  Word from other Centers is that people have been sent home and told not to do any work until further notice.

Quote

We continue to wait for direction from our Contracting Officer regarding contract tasks during the shutdown.   Your managers and supervisors are identifying work that can be done during the shutdown so that once we receive the Contracting Officer’s direction, you will be provided with more specific direction on your tasks and where you can perform those tasks.  

 

New update:

Quote

The government is still working on our direction for the shutdown.  Please plan on working all day today.  We should have additional instructions later this afternoon, but for now we are business as usual. 

In the meantime, please continue to make preparations to shut down your work area before you leave today and make sure that your manager and supervisor have updated contact info for you.

 

Edited by razark
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