POLITICS

Interior Department Is Preparing For Possible Government Shutdown

"We have to do shutdown planning. Unfortunately, we're getting pretty good at that."
The Grand Canyon National Park was among the national parks that closed during the 2013 government shutdown. The Department o
The Grand Canyon National Park was among the national parks that closed during the 2013 government shutdown. The Department of Interior is getting ready for another congressional standoff over the budget this year. 

WASHINGTON -- The Department of Interior is already working on its shutdown plans in case Congress isn't able to pass a continuing resolution to fund the government after Sept. 30.

"We profoundly hope there is no government shutdown. That is the basis on which we're operating," said Interior Secretary Sally Jewell at a breakfast event Tuesday hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.

But even if there isn't, she continued, "We have to do shutdown planning. Unfortunately, we're getting pretty good at that."

Jewell, who took office in 2013, several months before the last government shutdown, expressed frustration that Washington might end up with another one so soon.

"It is very, very frustrating as a business person, now two years into this job," said Jewell, who was appointed to Interior from a position as head of the outdoor retailer REI. "I can't tell you how ridiculous it is to try to run an organization of 70,000 people who are very, very committed to their mission, which is of great importance to the American people, to have to work with them on shutdown planning right now because Congress has not acted on the budget."

During the 16-day shutdown two years ago, the Interior Department was one of the closed wings of the federal government that drew the most public attention, because it oversees the National Park Service. The closure of the parks drew a lot of public outrage, ruining family vacations and weddings at sites across the country. It was also costly for the government; the Interior Department estimated that the closure caused $414 million in lost revenue in and around the parks.

But Jewell said the "hidden catastrophes" of a shutdown are even worse, like government scientists who can't use data they've been collecting for an entire year because there is a three-week gap.

"There are many things that aren't as visible as the national parks that are impacted by a shutdown," said Jewell. "It is very, very important that Congress not go down that path again."

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