How to work under a CR

By Suzanne Kubota
Senior Internet Editor

As each day passes, it’s becoming more likely that many agencies will soon need begin running federal programs with temporary funding. The current budget year ends on September 30th. And Congress still hasn’t finished work on permanent spending bills for 2011.

Experts say they’ll probably have to pass a continuing resolution (CR) to keep government running. That means no new programs for your agency, at least until those permanent spending bills become law.

While CRs “seem to be becoming a way of life for federal managers,” John Palguta is the vice president for policy at the Partnership for Public Service told Federal News Radio, “it is frustrating because you would love to know ‘how much money do I have to spend so let me go about getting the job done,’ and under a continuing resolution, you don’t know.”


Typically, said Palguta, the funding levels will be the same as the previous year.

Dos and Don’ts

    First on the Don’t side, said Palguta, “don’t assume you have to stop everything. What I would suggest is that you immediately, as soon as you have a continuing resolution, try to find out what the conditions are. Is it just continued funding at last years levels or are there some special provisions?'” Also find out within your own agency if there have been determinations made about distribution of funds within the agency. “So get your facts first, before you panic and just stop.”

    On the Do side: You do want to continue to focus on getting the job done. There’s a lot you can do. “For example, let’s say you’ve been planning to fill some jobs, but filling those jobs depends on getting some increase in appropriations. You don’t know if you’re going to get it. You can still go out, you can advertise your jobs, you can screen applicants, you can even do interviews. I would be up front with applicants,” advised Palguta. Let the applicants know you can’t make a commitment without firm funding, “but you want to go ahead and be ready to move.”

To keep a project moving, said Palguta, put together different scenarios to fit varying funding. “It’s a little more work, but that’s the life of a federal manager.”

As for upper level managers, as people in your agency come to you, remember the rumor mill is churning. “The best way to deal with rumors is with facts,” said Palguta, “and even if there’s been no decision, communicate that.”

In general, said Palguta, there are some basic, predictable reactions to a CR that have emerged over the years.

    Experienced managers – “kind of understand ‘this too shall pass.'”

    New managers/employees – Have a learning curve. “Hopefully some of the experienced managers are helping out.”

The basic job of every employee is to “get the business done. You’ve got to do the best job you can to get the mission accomplished with the funding you have.”