Many agencies are not under a hiring freeze

Thursday - 3/3/2011, 7:46pm EST

By John Buckner
Federal News Radio

Over the past few weeks, Federal News Radio conducted a survey of the 25 largest agencies to get feedback on what actions are being taken to prepare for a potential shutdown, furloughs and budget constraints in 2011.

The survey found that eight of the 10 agencies who responded, had no formal or informal hiring freeze in place. Only the Justice Department said they have a freeze and the Commerce Department said they have slowed hiring to "conserve resources for high-priority needs." The respondents did not give any details on their efforts to prepare for possible furloughs and budget cuts.

Fortunately for them, their preparations will go unused - at least for the time being. Congress passed and the President signed a two-week continuing resolution to fund government through March 18.

However, agencies once again could end up facing a potential shutdown if Congress doesn't pass a longer-term spending measure.

Federal News Radio's survey asked agencies to describe any preparations being taking to limit the impact of a shutdown and how they are going to handle any 2011 budget constraints.

Across the board, agencies surveyed said they do have plans in place and are constantly reviewing them.

Department of Commerce
"The Department of Commerce, along with all its operating units, is carefully managing resources under the current funding level to ensure its most important work can be carried out. To this end, the department has slowed hiring to conserve resources for high-priority needs - working within its budget to ensure that critical open positions are filled," said a Commerce official. "We strongly agree that we have to make tough choices to bring down the deficit and get the country back on a sustainable path, which is why the President proposed a five-year, non-security discretionary freeze, saving more than $400 billion and reducing non-security discretionary spending to its lowest level as a share of the economy since President Eisenhower. But to win the future, we cannot make cuts that undermine our ability to create jobs, drive innovation, and compete in a global economy."

Department of Energy
"We do not have a hiring freeze in place, and I can't speculate on what may happen with the budget or the CR," according to an Energy official. "As a matter of course, our agency plans for contingencies. In fact, since 1980, all agencies have had to have a plan in case of a government shutdown, and these plans are updated routinely. But all of this is besides the point since, as the bipartisan congressional leadership has said on a number of occasions and as the President has made clear, no one anticipates or wants a government shutdown. The department is working with both sides on Capitol Hill to fund the government and keep its vital services and functions operating."

Government Printing Office
"GPO, like every other federal agency, is reviewing policies and procedures to be prepared in the event of a government shutdown. As you know, GPO is operating under a continuing resolution since a fiscal 2011 budget has not been passed. As Congress works on passing a budget, GPO is reviewing all programs and projects so that the agency continues to meet the needs of Congress, federal agencies and the American public," according to a GPO official.

Department of Housing and Urban Development
"HUD is currently not operating under a formal or informal hiring freeze. Hiring offices are reviewing their budgets carefully and decisions related to hiring are approved by senior leadership. At this time, we do not plan to impose a hiring freeze," according to a HUD official. "At this time, we will not be commenting on the possibility of a government shutdown. At this time, we will not be commenting on the impending budget cuts for 2011. Please refer to President Obama's statement on HR1 on Feb. 15, 2011."

Department of Justice
"We do [have a hiring freeze in place] . The Attorney General has ordered a departmentwide temporary freeze on hiring and reductions to non-personnel spending," according to a DOJ official. "The actions taken by the Attorney General are designed to keep the Department operating effectively within constrained funding levels. They will also help us avoid more severe measures such as employee furloughs."

NASA
"No, the agency does not [have a hiring freeze] ," according to a NASA official. "We believe an agreement will be reached to prevent a government shutdown. The safety of our astronauts is our top priority, and we will take the steps necessary to ensure they have the proper support. For other information concerning government-wide procedures under a Shutdown scenario, we refer you to the Office of Management and Budget."