Report points to layoffs affecting safety attributable to the shutdown

Oct. 11, 2013 at 3:47 PM   |   0 comments

WASHINGTON, Oct. 11 (UPI) -- All Consumer Product Safety Commission inspectors in the field who screen products at ports of entry are furloughed, a U.S. Senate panel report Friday said.

In addition, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board furloughed crash investigators, and can't send investigations teams to crashes during the shutdown, the report commissioned by Democratic members of the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee, Science and Transportation said.

"As a result of the shutdown and subsequent employee furloughs, agencies have been forced to suspend or cease many vital operations," the report, "The Impacts of the Government Shutdown on Our Economic Security," said.

The report also noted the Federal Aviation Administration halted development, operational testing and evaluation of technologies and safety standards for NextGen, the agency's program to modernize the air traffic control system.

Communities surrounding now-shuttered National Park Service sites could lose as much as $30 million and 750,000 visitors every day the sites are closed, the report said.

Furloughs of National Marine Fisheries Service biologists, who help determine fishing quotas and permit approvals that are prerequisites for fishing seasons across the country, threaten to delay and truncate the lucrative king crab fisheries season in Alaska and Washington, slated to start Oct. 15.

Testing and validation activities on the James Webb Space Telescope have ceased after the National Aeronautics and Space Administration furloughed more than 17,000 employees, excluding contractors, the report said.

"The damage and the disruption caused by this government shutdown are real," committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., said in opening remarks to a hearing on the majority report. "It is hurting our families, our businesses, our government, and our standing in the world. It never should have happened.

"We often talk about the economy in abstract terms. But what we're really talking about is millions of skilled and productive Americans -- in both the public and private sectors -- whose hard work and dedication make our country strong."

For the past two weeks, House Republicans "have blocked these government agencies from doing their important jobs," Rockefeller said. "They have told most of our safety experts, scientists and engineers, 'Go home.'"

He noted that one of the people furloughed was a Dr. David Wineland, a National Institute of Standards and Technology employee and recipient of the Nobel Prize in 2012 for his work on atomic physics.

"The small handful of members of Congress who engineered the government shutdown don't seem to value Dr. Wineland's work as much as world's leading scientists do," Rockefeller said.

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