Government Shutdown Guidance

U.S. Capitol BuildingParts of the United States Government shut down operations beginning Dec. 22, 2018.

  • Three of Penn State’s largest sponsors—NSF, NASA, and USDA--are impacted by the shutdown. Other sponsors impacted by the shutdown include Commerce, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior (including the National Park Service), Justice, State (including USAID), Transportation, and Treasury.
  • Agencies not impacted by the shutdown include Defense, Education, Energy, most of DHHS (including NIH), and Labor.

In prior shutdowns, Penn State was permitted to continue work on most existing projects. But certain Federal grants and contracts may be terminated, especially if the shutdown lasts a long time. Other projects may be subject to additional restrictions, even if they are not shut down completely.

If you or your faculty receive any notices of termination, suspension, or “stop work” orders, please forward them to immediately.  

We should not expect to receive any new awards, funding increments, payments, modifications, or other approvals from agencies affected by the shutdown.

Penn State must continue to comply with all Federal terms and conditions, including reporting requirements, regardless of the duration of the shutdown.


Certain government websites—including proposal submission systems—may be taken down during the shutdown. Others may remain in place, but without helpdesk or technical support. A list of statuses for various federal websites and systems can be found here, and will be updated as we become aware of changes:


  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). “Contractors may continue to perform under contracts for work obligated prior to the shutdown, provided performance does not require the use of shutdown NASA facilities or other Government support which would be funded by a lapsed appropriation, including administration, oversight or other actions required of civil servants . . . Contractors continuing to work under these circumstances will be instructed to preserve resources and limit contractual expenditures.” More information can be found here
  • National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). “Contractors will be notified of the Government status and what limits/changes they will have to operate under by the applicable Contracting Officer.” More information on USDA shutdown provisions can be found here.
  • National Park Servce (NPS). Penn State has been instructed to refrain from performing any National Park Service projects during the shutdown “that require access to NPS sites or NPS personnel or that are dependent on additional appropriations after midnight ET, December 21st.” 
  • National Science Foundation (NSF). NSF will continue to accept proposals in accordance with published guidelines. Responses to inquiries will be deferred until normal operations resume. More information can be found here.

The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has aggregated FAQs and shutdown plans for all the agencies affected by the recent shutdown:

An important section of the FAQ can be found on page 6:

A6:  If the continued supervision or support during the lapse period is not critical to the contractor’s or grantee’s continued performance during that period, then the contractor or grantee may continue to proceed with its work.  This is the case, for example, if an agency had obligated funds representing the entire price for a good or service under a contract or task order before the funding lapse began.  In that example, the agency would not have to issue an affirmative direction to the contractor or grantee to continue performance, such as a notice to proceed.  Instead, the contractor or grantee could continue to engage in performance.  (It is always prudent to be in communication with the contractor or grantee to avoid a misunderstanding.)

However, depending on the duration of a funding lapse, the absence of available Federal employee oversight may lead an agency to reconsider whether the contract or grant activity should continue to be performed.  In particular, if the continued supervision or support during the lapse period is critical to the contractor’s or grantee’s continued performance during that period, then – where consistent with law and the terms of the contract or grant – the agency should instruct the contractor or grantee to suspend performance.

The same would be true if continued performance depends on the participation of other Federal agencies or the availability of other Federal facilities that would be precluded by the lapse of appropriations. 

Please also note that some agencies emphasize the importance of “minimizing costs” during the shutdown. For example, NASA’s shutdown plan says the following:

Contractor travel associated with excepted activities should occur only on an exception basis, and then only where it cannot be deferred without severe adverse impact on the remaining permissible effort. Supplies that are not immediately needed to carry out the essential operations under this policy, overtime not critical to meeting the tasks still permitted under this policy, and similar costs should not be incurred.

For questions or issues regarding sponsored programs, please contact your College or Unit's research administration office or contact the Office of Sponsored Programs at 814-865-1372 or