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Brief federal shutdown affects MIT minimally

The federal government's partial shutdown, if it continues for only a few days, will increase paperwork but will otherwise have only a small effect on MIT funding, according to Julie Norris, director of the Office of Sponsored Programs.

Existing federal research awards are not affected by the immediate shutdown, provided the award has been fully executed and received by MIT, she said on Tuesday. Individuals employed by MIT on federally funded contracts and grants are not affected.

New government research awards generally will not be effective until such time as a continuing budget resolution is signed and the award is issued. This might cause some minor perturbations but no major impact at the present time, she said.

The temporary crisis will send home approximately 800,000 "nonessential" federal employees. Ms. Norris said the definition of nonessential varies from agency to agency and could affect communications between MIT personnel and their federal counterparts.

Ms. Norris said that MIT "can function in a fairly normal fashion close to the end of the month. If the crisis continues, both awards and drawdowns would be affected and we would have significant problems."

Ms. Norris added that if the shutdown continues beyond mid-December, the situation will cause problems at MIT, both in terms of funding levels and in increased administrative workloads. Of greater concern is the negagive impact reduced funding would have on research programs themselves. Faculty and research staff members might be forced to adjust research activities impacted by reduced research funding.

As examples of possible problems, she noted that some agencies might continue to fund programs in very small increments for very short periods of time, creating concern at the researcher's level and paperwork burdens for OSP. For example, some years ago, one agency was forced to make four-month awards, followed by eight-month awards, doubling the paperwork requirements at both agency and institution.

She said a prolonged crisis might affect agencies which have been making fully funded awards, but might be forced to de-obligate funds from existing projects, thereby affecting not only the progress of the research but possibly causing some changes in work scope.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on November 15, 1995.

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