International Trade, the Government Shutdown, and You... The End?


On February 15, the President announced that he had signed House Joint Resolution 31, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2019, restoring funding to the approximately one-fourth of the US Government which has been shut down during parts of December and January.  This partial government shutdown is now over, and the agencies directly affected by the shutdown have been funded through the rest of the current fiscal year.

 The affected agencies had been operating on a three-week infusion of funding which was set to expire on February 15, so much of their attention during that period was focused on:

  * playing “catch-up” for unresolved issues from the Dec. 22 – Jan. 25 shutdown period

  * preparation for a prospective second shutdown period beginning Feb. 16

  * maintaining as many current operations (mostly basic ones) as feasible under the circumstances

For many of these agencies, the uncertainty during these three weeks limited the amount of recovery work they could complete before the potential second shutdown.  Now it is possible to plan and schedule recovery work with longer timelines, and with more confidence that the agency staff will be able to complete that work efficiently.

As previously noted, recovery from the shutdown is likely to be much slower in some areas of an agency’s operations, than in others.  For example, many types of equipment that were not operated during the shutdown may have to be checked, adjusted, maintained, and even re-calibrated before they can be returned to operational use.  Some facilities will require inspection, and often a significant amount of maintenance, before they can be fully used again by either agency staff, or the public the agency serves.

The time and actions required to return specific types of agency activities to their “normal” state will vary greatly, both from one agency to another, and within different parts of the same agency.  At many locations, dealing with remaining accumulations of incoming messages and documents – both paper and electronic – will continue as a major issue for some time.

 Fortunately, most of US Customs’ day-to-day, front-line commercial cargo operations, including critical electronic systems, continued on an almost-normal basis during the shutdown.  So did the related functions of FDA and several other agencies responsible for managing specific aspects of international cargo movement.  The areas in which increased “lag time” in the handling of specific transactions can be expected are primarily:

  * “back office” and administrative functions, especially those involving specialized review of particular aspects of previous transactions

  * review and approval of applications for future transactions or activities

Transmark Customs Brokers will continue to closely observe events at the agencies we most regularly work with, and remain alert for any unresolved issues that may affect our clients’ operations. Please feel free to contact us at any time, to discuss how we can help you identify and act on any shutdown-related issues that could affect you.