WASHINGTON. Due to the fact that NASA is resuming work after the longest government shutdown, on January 29, the agency’s administration said that a full recovery from the effects of a shutdown would take longer than the shutdown itself.
At a meeting of the town hall at NASA headquarters, which was broadcast at NASA's television agency field centers, NASA administrator Jim Briddenstein welcomed the agency’s workforce after a 35-day outage, which led to the vast majority of them. The event focused mainly on the problems faced by NASA staff, and not on the consequences that the suspension had on the agency’s programs.
“I know how I tried the last month for many of you,” said Bridenstein. "This was hard. I want to say thank you for your patience and your commitment to this agency and mission, in which we all so believe. ”
Brydenstein added that he is not immune from the effects of a trip. “From my point of view, personally it was not easy,” he said, noting that his confirmation process showed that he was not a rich man. "It was not easy for me or my family, probably more than for you and your family."
One of the priorities after the completion of work at the end of January 25 was to return the salaries to the agency’s employees. Bridenstine said that NASA’s office of CFO worked on weekends to take these measures. Agency staff should receive this compensation this week.
The situation is less clear for agency contractors, who, unlike government employees, are not guaranteed a refund. “Each contract is individual, and therefore we are working on it right now,” said Brydenstein. Some contractors, he said, will be able to receive a back payment, while others will not. "In the future, we would like to standardize it more."
During the Town Hall, an employee asked if NASA government officials could contribute to crowdfunding efforts on platforms, such as GoFundMe, to assist contractors. At the same time, according to agency officials, there are potential legal problems.
“The problem with GoFundMe’s idea and campaigns is that you are confronted with conflicts,” said Bob Gibbs, director of human capital. “When you deal with contractors and federal employees, you don’t know who is helping whom and how it all works.” Neither he nor Sumar M. Thompson-King, General Counsel of NASA, gave a clear answer. if such donations were allowed or prohibited, referring instead to a statement about such donations published last week.
Payroll is not the only area where NASA works to catch up. The cybersecurity agency program “was mostly fully functional” during closing, said Rene Winn, NASA's chief information officer. According to her, this included the removal of the most important software fixes, although fixes with a lower priority were postponed until shutdown was completed.
Wynn added that about 35 NASA websites were shut down during shutdown due to issues such as the expiration of security certificates. Sites that did not include the main NASA public website are now connected to the network.
According to Bridenstein, a full recovery after a stop will take weeks. During the closure, there was no “mass exodus” of staff from the agency, but several people from NASA headquarters and field centers left during closure, and contractors were in some cases reassigned by their employers and may no longer be available to work at NASA .
Brydenstein said that he recalled that the last long shutdown, which had closed NASA for almost three weeks in October 2013, took much more than three weeks to recover from it. This was a source of frustration for him, at that time a member of Congress. “Why does it take more time after a shutdown?” He asked.
As head of the agency affected by the shutdown, he says that he understands better why it takes a lot of time, including contractors who transfer employees to other projects. “When we get back to work, we will need to hire new people and / or figure out how to get people back on the side of the contract,” he said. “This is not a one-on-one delay. One day of closing is not equal to one day of returning to the business. ”
"We really will not know the true influence, probably for some period of time, on the fact that [the shutdown] did with labor, added Gibbs.
Now that the closure is closed, at least temporarily – NASA and other agencies that were closed are only funded until February 15, while waiting for a long-term deal in Congress – Bridenstine tried to focus on the upcoming year, including showing a video of many of the agency’s activities in 2019.
“It was a difficult beginning in 2019,” he said, “but we have a lot of really amazing projects ahead of us, a lot of really exciting things.”