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Six-Day Shutdown Has Minimal Effect

By Dan McGuire
Staff Reporter

Although the six-day government shutdown that ended Sunday night caused a work stoppage in federal agencies, MIT felt only minor interruptions in Institute business.

The interruption began Nov. 14 after President Bill Clinton vetoed a Republican congressional spending measure, and ended Sunday when Clinton and the congressional leadership agreed to a compromise.

"We had a little bit of difficulty but nothing of much significance," said Vice President for Finance Philip J. Keohane, "I wouldn't say that was a non-event, but on the fiscal side," there were not a lot of problems.

Keohane said that a longer shutdown could have caused the interruption of some research funding because the personnel necessary to approve grants were not available.

MIT "can function in a fairly normal fashion close to the end of the month," said Director for the Office of Sponsored Programs Julie T. Norris in a Nov. 15 Tech Talk interview when the shutdown was in its first few days. "If the crisis continues, both awards and drawdowns would be affected, and we would have significant problems."

Government deadlines for approving expenditures might also have been missed if the shutdown had been prolonged, said Assistant to the President for Government and Community Relations Ronald P. Suduiko.

The temporary budget agreement passed yesterday will allow federal agencies to begin processing funding requests again.

For the next several weeks, until a final budget is passed, the the primary agencies funding Institute research "will be funded at the levels specified in the preliminary Senate budget, the preliminary House budget, or at fiscal year 1995 levels, whichever is the lowest," said Director of the MITWashington Office John C. Crowley.

These agencies include the National Institute of Health, National Science Foundation, NASA, Environmental Protection Agency, and Department of Defense, Crowley said.

"Programs that are slated to be terminated in either the House or Senate budgets will be funded at 75 percent of fiscal year 1995 levels," Crowley said.

A spending bill for the Department of Energy was passed before the government shutdown, and funding from that organization continued without interruption through the government shutdown, he added.

"We do not know in any hard sense what final funding levels will be," said Crowley. "All we can see is the path from here to Dec. 15," when the new budget should be approved.

"I believe that Congress and the president will try to protect education" in areas such as student aid, said Crowley. Additionally, "there has been a commitment... to sustain federal research programs."