Originally posted on the DOE website

September 6, 2023

Department of Energy Lapse of Appropriations Plan

1. How would DOE implement plans for operating in the event of a lapse of appropriations?

DOE has a written Order entitled  Operating in the Event of a Lapse in Appropriations (DOE Order 137.1B)

, that provides DOE policy for (1) continuing operations using balances from prior years, if available, during a lapse in appropriations, and (2) upon exhaustion of all available balances, (a) continuing only those excepted functions related to emergencies involving the safety of human life or the protection of property and (b) initiating orderly shutdown of those activities not considered excepted. The Order was issued on September 30, 2011 and last updated on April 30, 2020.

Additionally, DOE maintains a plan for operating during a lapse in appropriations consistent with the current requirements in section 124 of Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-11.  This plan is updated every two years or as required.

Most of DOE’s appropriations are multi-year or no-year. In the event of a lapse:

  • Federal employees in offices with funding for salaries continue to report for work as scheduled.  A prolonged lapse in appropriations may require subsequent employee furloughs. If there is an imminent threat to human life or protection of property, a limited number of employees may be recalled from furlough status.
  • Performance of contracts and financial assistance instruments continue in accordance with their terms, including any provisions about limitations of funding. However, depending upon the length of the lapse of the appropriations, whether Government oversight is needed, and the availability of prior-year funding, the Department may need to review the activities of its contractors and only those activities where the suspension of the function of the contract would imminently threaten the safety of human life or the protection of property would be permitted to continue.

2. How would DOE handle a short lapse in appropriations (1-5 days)

It is anticipated that there would be no disruption to DOE operations during a short lapse in appropriations of 1-5 days.  DOE has historically had sufficient previously appropriated funds that remain available to support operations during a short term lapse.

3. How much time would be needed to complete the shutdown?

DOE would be able to shut down all non-excepted Federal functions within a half day of exhaustion of available balances, with some exceptions involving the movement of nuclear materials.  It will take longer than a half day to shutdown some contractor performed activities in order to protect property. For example, some large equipment may need to be cooled down before it can be shutdown, while other equipment may need to stay operational at a low level in order for it not to be permanently damaged.

4. What types of actions will DOE conduct after fully expending available funds?

Unless otherwise noted, if a Departmental element does not have functions related to the safety of human life and the protection of property, all functions performed by that element will close if there is a lapse in appropriations and unexpended balances have been exhausted. All PAS employees will continue to report to duty.

5. What additional key points apply to DOE in the event of a lapse of appropriations?

DOE operates with multi-year and no-year money. Each component of DOE will continue to operate until prior year balances for funding of federal employees is exhausted. Pursuant to the DOE Order each office that has prior year balances will continue to operate as long as those balances remain available, but operations under those circumstances will be somewhat modified. For example, travel will generally be curtailed. DOE has some limited transfer and reprogramming authority which may enable DOE to extend the number of days of funding available in some limited cases.

Any office may end up recalling individuals who are not currently excepted based on world events and the length of the shutdown. All such recalls must be approved by the Office of the General Counsel or the NNSA General Counsel, as applicable.

The Office of Secure Transportation (OST), which is part of NNSA, is responsible for transporting the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile. If there is a lapse of appropriation and prior year balances are expended, OST will ensure that the stockpile is in secure locations and will recall employees as needed in the event that nuclear weapons must be transported during the lapse.

At most DOE facilities, all operations will cease once prior year balances have been exhausted. Under the protection of property exception, DOE will physically protect sites (guns, guards, and gates) and maintain Government equipment and property (e.g., caring for laboratory animals and ensuring that scientific equipment and nuclear reactors are safely maintained).

There are some DOE programs, for example, the medical isotope program, where DOE may need to produce additional isotopes in order to protect human life. The need to do this will depend on the length of the lapse and the stockpile of individual isotopes.

All other agency programs will close if there is a lapse of appropriations and prior year balances are exhausted.

If there is a furlough of DOE employees, at the end of the furlough individuals will be notified to return to work.

6. Which DOE personnel are excepted from furlough?

DOE plans to notify excepted personnel that they are excepted when appropriate. For the most part, excepted personnel include a sufficient number of contracting officers who can enter into and modify contracts, if needed, and other employees who are needed to ensure that Government property is protected. The number of excepted personnel is stated in the lapse plan summary, but is subject to change.