Congress has not passed crucial funding bills for the start of FY 2022 and, on September 28, 2021, Treasury Secretary Yellen informed Congress that Treasury now estimates that the Federal government will reach the debt ceiling by October 18. As a result, we again face the prospect of a government shutdown for lack of funding. While Congress may yet take action, agencies across the government are likely to begin taking steps to prepare for a shutdown, and contractors should do so as well.
Although the issues that contractors would face under a government shutdown may vary with the circumstances of individual contracts, there are a number of common considerations. Based on our experience under prior Federal government shutdowns, these include:
- Where Is the Money? For incrementally funded contracts, a “shutdown” situation is likely similar to those experienced at the end of any fiscal year when there is a “gap” between appropriations. Contractors will need to consider the implications of the various standard clauses (Limitation of Costs, Limitation of Funds, Limitation of Government Obligations) that may affect the government’s obligation to pay costs in excess of the amounts already obligated to their contracts. Of particular concern will be the standard provisions in those clauses that may limit the government’s liability for termination costs in the event that the contracts are eventually terminated without new funding. Contractors will need to decide whether to continue to perform or to take the actions authorized when funding is insufficient to pay for anticipated costs. But for contracts that are fully funded or that have incremental funding sufficient to cover all anticipated costs, including termination costs, a shutdown would not normally create new funding risks.