If a lack of funding triggers a government shutdown, any federal employees caught working face potential fines of up to $5,000 and two years in jail.
But government activities considered necessary “for the safety of human life or the protection of property” or “for conducting foreign relations essential to national security” are allowed to continue even during a government shutdown.
As the federal government sees it, most of what the Office of Cuba Broadcasting does is essential to national security. So if there’s a government shutdown, 80 of the office’s 91 employees would be allowed to continue working. That’s according to a Dec. 20 report titled, “Operations during a Lapse in Appropriations.”
The Office of Cuba Broadcasting, which oversees Radio & TV Martí, has 1,291 employees. The report said 936 of them would continue to work during a shutdown.
The report stated:
“To qualify as an essential activity for the protection of human life and property, there must be some
reasonable connection between the activity and the safety of human life or the protection of
property. There must also be some reasonable likelihood that such safety and protection would be
compromised to some degree by delay in the performance of the function in question. At the U.S.
Agency for Global Media (USAGM), this would include the protection of all government property,
including headquarters, domestic and overseas transmitting stations, overseas bureaus, and
equipment used in USAGM operations. The Office of Security and security guards will continue
to protect domestic facilities and personnel in the event of a shut down. It would also include
reasonable support services related to the protection of human life and property.
The USAGM Office of General Counsel (OGC) has issued a memorandum establishing that there
is a sufficient legal basis for the USAGM Board’s determination that United States international
broadcasting activities of the USAGM qualify as “foreign relations essential to the national
security” and are, therefore, excepted activities which may continue during the appropriations
lapse. These excepted activities represent the minimum activities necessary to produce and
distribute Voice of America (VOA) and Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB) programming and to
distribute programming of the USAGM. Federal employees who are covered by this exception
include the minimum VOA, OCB, Technology, Services, and Innovation (TSI), and USAGM
oversight and support offices 1 employees required to produce and distribute relevant
Similarly, the USAGM OGC has determined that the non-federal entity networks, Radio Free Asia
(RFA), Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), and Middle East Broadcasting Networks, Inc.
(MBN), also engage in core broadcasting activities for the Agency that qualify as “foreign relations
essential to the national security” and are, therefore, excepted activities which may continue during
the appropriations lapse.
The scope of this excepted activity is based on the following programming assumptions:
- Minimum operations necessary to keep the USAGM global distribution network
- Current programming schedule remains, with minimum operations necessary to stay on the
- Highest priority news programs continue;
- Breaking news is covered;
- No new programs or projects are initiated;
- Evergreen and pre-recorded material will be used to the highest extent possible;
- Internet and new media operations continue as appropriate; and
- Excepted employees are those essential to produce and distribute these programs.”