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NNSS preparing for shutdown

The Nevada National Security Administration is beginning to put facilities into minimal status due to the government shutdown in Washington, D.C.

Many functions of the federal government have been shut down since the end of the budget year Oct. 1 as the Republicans and Democrats continue to quarrel over whether to provide funding to Obamacare.

The NNSA operates the Nevada National Security Site, formerly known as the Nevada Test Site, where the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile is tested. Low level nuclear waste is also deposited at the NNSS.

A memo to employees by National Securities Technologies (NSTec), the main contractor at the Nevada National Security Site, states “Congress’ inability to pass an appropriations act will result in a lapse of appropriations. Given continued uncertainty it is prudent that we act to ensure extended safe and secure operations of all of our work locations.”

“NNSA direction is to initiate minimum operations at NNSA-owned facilities in support of, at a minimum, obtaining safe and secure status no later than Monday, Oct. 21.”

NSTec is the largest employer in Nye County, estimated to have between 1,000 to 1,499 employees according to the Nye County Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) document.

Wackenhut Services Inc., a company that provides security guards and patrol services at the NNSS, is listed as the fifth largest employer in the county with anywhere from 300 to 399 employees.

NSTec wants to develop a plan for all work locations, including remote sites, for achieving minimal operational status by Friday. The planning will assess various scenarios.

The memo advises: “Should this budget impasse continue, furloughs for NSTec employees (bargaining and non-bargaining) may take effect Monday, Oct. 21 for all employees except for those identified as personnel required for minimum operations status.”

NSTec has cancelled overtime, unless requested by the director. Critical procurements will continue on a selected basis, if approved by the director. Any travel must be preapproved or reapproved. No new hires or job offers will be made until further notice.

“I understand this turmoil creates a great deal of uncertainty and stress for all of our employees and their families. I would urge each of you to make your own personal plans with this potential situation in mind,” the memo said.

The budget situation is subject to change hour-by-hour, NSTec advises. Employees are advised to bear with the company as they prepare for contingencies.

The National Republican Congressional Committee blasted U.S. Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nev., for voting against legislation to fund the NNSA.

“You know Steven Horsford has gone off the deep end when he puts Obama’s government shutdown ahead of nuclear weapons security and funding for nuclear emergencies,” NRCC Communications Director Andrea Bozek said in a statement issued Friday. “When rogue regimes like Iran continue to build nuclear weapons programs Steven Horsford’s vote against funding America’s nuclear weapons programs is putting America’s security at risk.”

Horsford, a freshman congressman and part of the Democratic minority in the House of Representatives responded: “If House Republicans were serious about protecting Nevada jobs, they would allow a vote on a clean funding bill to open all essential government functions, including those of the NNSA. I have voted yes on every bill to end this irresponsible shutdown and will continue to work to protect jobs in Pahrump and the rest of my district.”

Rick Spees and Jane Sargent, from the Akerman Senterfitt law firm, Nye County lobbyists in Washington, D.C., advised county officials Friday not to believe press stories late last week about movement on the budget. They predicted the impasse would last a couple more weeks, but noted, “Spees’ first rule of lobbying holds that no one ever lost money betting that Congress will miss a deadline.”

“While there were some discussions, there was no real meeting of the minds. The Republicans continue to hold out for conditions to be part of a budget/debt deal and the Democrats continue to insist that the government should be funded and the debt ceiling be raised without conditions. Both sides are dancing around the edges, but the core positions have not changed,” the lobbyists wrote.

A proposal by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., a former vice-presidential candidate, would have suspended the debt limit for six weeks without conditions, but wouldn’t end the shutdown. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., introduced a bill allowing the government to borrow whatever it needs until the end of the year, which lobbyists said has no chance in the House.

But they said more and more functions of government have reopened, the Secretary of Defense called back half of the idle workers saying they are now essential. The states of Utah and Colorado used their own funds to reopen national parks.

While the Treasury will reach the debt ceiling by Oct. 17, Spees and Sargent said there are still a few things the Treasury can do to manage money a few weeks longer, some financial experts believe it can continue operating until Oct. 31.

“At the start of November the government disburses $60 billion in Social Security benefits. That is when things will fall apart,” the lobbyists said.