The FCC is not processing any Amateur Radio applications as the partial government shutdown approaches its fourth week. The FCC suspended “most operations” at mid-day on Thursday, January 3, although an appearance of activity continues. For radio amateurs, the shutdown means that while the Universal Licensing System (ULS) continues to accept applications for all valid purposes, the FCC will not review or act upon them until the funding stalemate is resolved. This includes Volunteer Examiner Coordinator test session batch files as well as modification, renewal, and vanity call sign applications filed by individual licensees. Amateur Radio newcomers who have passed the required examinations will have to wait until the shutdown concludes to receive a call sign and authorization to operate. License upgrades are also on hold.
“Due to a lapse in funding, the operations of the Federal Communications Commission will be limited with no system support. We regret any inconvenience,” the FCC says on the ULS home page. This means very limited human intervention while the shutdown continues, and if a system breaks down, it may not be repaired until after employees back on the payroll. At this point, 262 of 1,437 FCC employees (excepting contractors) remain on the job, as are FCC Commissioners.
The Antideficiency Act prohibits FCC and other federal employees from working until funds are available to pay them; they may not even volunteer, check their email, or attend meetings. While the law doesn’t directly affect FCC automated filing databases, some of these cannot operate without regular human intervention.
The Commission has emphasized that it will undertake any activities necessary for the protection of life and property during the funding lapse. That includes the High Frequency Direction Finding (HFDF) Center in Maryland, considered essential.
The FCC website remains up, and the FCC Daily Digest of its activity continues to be posted, but the website is not being updated, and the only items in the Daily Digest are those related to spectrum auctions, activity that is funded through auction proceeds, not government funds. The Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS) also will accept posts, but filings will not be reviewed or processed until after normal operations return.
The FCC spelled out the overall impact of the funding lapse in a January 2 Public Notice. Using available funds, the agency was able to maintain a business-as-usual posture until that date. The FCC released an updated Plan for Orderly Shutdown Due to Lapse of Congressional Appropriations on January 9. The resumption of normal operations will also be announced on the FCC’s website.
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