Kansas federal sites resume operations
TOPEKA (AP) — Federal employees and government facilities were returning to normal operations Thursday after Congress reached an agreement to end the 16-day partial shutdown of the federal government.
The agreement allowed for funding of federal operations, leading to the opening of Kansas National Historic Sites, resumption of military training schedules and the issuing of checks to participants in a special nutrition program.
"It won't be instantaneous. The law was signed, but to turn things back on will take longer," said Maj. Martin O'Donnell, spokesman for the Army's 1st Infantry Division at Fort Riley.
The Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum in Abilene posted "We're back! We've missed everyone so please stop by and visit!" on its Facebook page Thursday morning. The complex is part of the National Archives system and had been closed since the shutdown began on Oct. 1.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment advised local clinics that they could start issuing assistance checks for use in November and December. Payments were halted Oct. 9 for the Women, Infant and Children program because of uncertainty about federal funding.
The program provides financial assistance for the purchase of nutritious foods, breastfeeding support and nutrition education. The WIC program is administered through contracts with local county health clinics and serves about 70,000 residents every month.
Sharon Watson, spokeswoman for the Kansas adjutant general's department, said the shutdown meant that 137 employees at the Kansas National Guard's maintenance sites at Fort Riley and Salina, as well as five military technicians, would be returning to work.
She said units that had their October drills canceled by the furloughs would be trying to reschedule those events. Some, she said, were looking to conduct four-day training sessions instead of the normal two to make up the lost time.
Most of the civilian military employees at Fort Riley, Fort Leavenworth and McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita who were initially furloughed Oct. 1 were already at work after being recalled by the Department of Defense. O'Donnell said any remaining furloughed employees would be returning to work.
O'Donnell said that soldiers would begin returning to regular activities once funding is available. Fort Riley also will be able to resume normal community relations functions, such as supporting local parades or other gatherings.
However, O'Donnell said units who had training or education courses canceled would try to reschedule those activities.
O'Donnell said the military still faced limited resources as a result of automatic budget cuts that took effect in March, forcing the Pentagon to institute administrative furloughs for civilian employees during the summer to balance the books. He said additional spending restrictions could create new problems and affect soldier and unit readiness.
"We're still not out of the clear. If sequestration part two continues, we will not be able to right size fast enough so you will have limited funds with a lot of troops to do training," he said.
Classes at the Army's Command and General Staff College were not interrupted by the shutdown, though civilian instructors were replaced for a period by active duty personnel in the classrooms, said Fort Leavenworth spokeswoman Kimberly Lewis.
The shutdown had no effect on operations of the fort's U.S. Disciplinary Barracks, the military's only maximum-security prison.