White House among federal offices planning for 'skeletal' staff

WASHINGTON -- With no sign of a break in a budget standoff, federal offices across the country have been determining who would be deemed "essential" and on the clock during a government shutdown. The White House has been doing the same.

The Executive Office of the President on Monday posted its contingency plans should Congress fail to pass a funding bill before the Monday midnight EDT deadline. Detailed in a letter sent last week to the Office of Management and Budget, the plan leaves 436 workers "exempt" from the shutdown order, meaning they can continue to report to work. That's the number deemed necessary to "sustain minimal excepted operations," according to the letter signed by Katy Kale, assistant to the president for management and administration. An additional 1,265 workers will be furloughed, the letter says.


The White House would not say directly whether the essential operations would include the president's trip to Asia, planned for next week. White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters that the trip remained scheduled, but he would not discuss in detail how a shutdown might affect the travel logistics.

"We don't have any changes to announce. We plan to make this trip," he said.

The contingency planning offers an intriguing view of what it takes to keep the White House running -- even minimally. Fifteen staff members would remain on duty to maintain the president's official residence, the letter said. The vice president's residence gets by with just one, and the vice president's office would keep 12 staff members on the job.

The plan makes clear that the president's top aides and advisors would be on hand throughout a shutdown, presumably to try to end it. A total of 129 people are required to support "the president in the discharge of his constitutional duties including staff required to work with the Congress in the enactment of appropriations," the letter says. Some of those are political appointees entitled to compensation regardless of whether Congress has authorized the money.

The national security staff would retain 42 people, or 62% of its staff, the highest percentage for any executive office. The Office of Management and Budget would have 118 people, and more as necessary.

Carney indicated Monday that he would make the cut and continue to brief reporters.

"We obviously believe it's important that the American people be apprised of what's happening here at the White House, and we will endeavor to provide that information as best we can with a skeletal staff," he said.

Twitter: @khennessey