September 21, 2015

Government Executive and Washington Post quote John Cooney on impact of government shutdown on contractors

2 min

Venable partner John Cooney was quoted in a September 21, 2015 Government Executive article on the possible impact a government shutdown would have on federal contractors. Going back to the 1980s, "the President has won every shutdown battle ever," Cooney said during a forum on shutdown preparations for contractors hosted by the Professional Services Council. "The White House has been ready with a PR strategy to make Congress look awkward, to gain advantage so that [the Administration] doesn't catch criticism because services are not being delivered."

Once a shutdown occurs, Cooney said the situation becomes "dynamic" and followed program by program, daily. "There's no law that says furloughed contractors get paid," he added. Noting that the White House and Justice Department carefully scrutinize agencies and contractors who may perform work during a shutdown, Cooney said contractors "may lobby to get their contract funded" through emergency or "multi-year or no-year" funding streams. He pointed to a 19th century "food and forage" principle used by the Defense Department to fund their contractors during shutdowns.

Cooney acknowledged that the Office of Management and Budget is likely already discussing shutdown preparations but will not publicize them until "the last minute." He said contract administrative personnel are usually among the first people furloughed in a shutdown and advised them to "keep in close contact with your contracting officer" until a shutdown occurs.

According to a September 21 Washington Post article, Cooney said contractors would have to return to work once a shutdown ends. "If you let that staff go, how are you going to perform the work you're required to do when the government reopens?" asked Cooney noting that the political struggle can make "the lives of contractors and contracting personnel a nightmare."