Partial Shutdown’s Impact on Federal Publications

Photo: Government Shutdown Notice from the National Archive
Government Shutdown Notice from


The impasse between President Donald Trump and Congress over the proposed $5.7 billion border wall has evolved into the most extended partial government shutdown in United States history. The partial shutdown has produced numerous adverse effects, including about 380,000 federal employees placed on furlough; 420,000 federal employees working without pay; reduced government services; and several consequential federal publications either foregoing routine updates, or simply going dark. The following post provides general guidance to researchers and citizens alike regarding those federal publications that may likely remain accessible or inaccessible during the 2018-2019 partial government shutdown.


Government shutdowns occur when Congress fails to pass appropriation legislation or continuing resolutions for setting discretionary spending levels. Since October, only five of the twelve appropriation bills were enacted into law, resulting in a lapse in federal funding for the remaining seven appropriation bills — which means some departments and agencies have the funds to continue operating and others do not. Further delineation of affected and unaffected departments are listed below:

Affected Departments

  • Department of Agriculture
  • Department of Commerce
  • Department of Health and Human Services (Some)
  • Department of Homeland Security
  • Department of Housing and Urban Development
  • Department of Justice
  • Department of State
  • Department of Transportation
  • Department of Treasury
  • Executive Office of the President
  • Independent Agencies (Most, including the National Archives)
  • Judicial Branch

Unaffected Departments

  • Department of Defense
  • Department of Education
  • Department of Energy
  • Department of Health and Human Services (Most)
  • Department of Labor
  • Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Legislative Branch (Includes LOC & GPO)
  • Independent Agencies (Some)

Source: PL 115-245; PL 115-224

Affected departments follow contingency plans that outline orderly shutdown procedures, and designate non-essential agencies, operations, and services that will then be unavailable during a lapse in appropriations. Federal departments also comply with information and information technology guidelines that instruct agencies to provide a standard notice stating a website is unavailable or not up-to-date. This gives users the opportunity to evaluate the currency, timeliness, and accessibility of government information.

Government Publications

The partial government shutdown can, however, result in some confusion, as there are an array of federal publications and statistics that may or may not be impacted by the shutdown. Affected agencies might not be actively maintaining website content, and thus information may not be up-to-date. For example, the Census Bureau has forgone services and activities relating to data collection and producing supplemental estimates, but is providing support for the Decennial Census.  Below is a selection listing some of the most commonly requested government information resources.

Limited, out-of-date, or unavailable Government Publications/Information

Operational Government Publications/Information

UW Tacoma Resources

In the event other government websites go dark, the UW Libraries subscribes to additional databases to ensure continued access to current and historical federal government information. Check out the Law, Statistics, Education, and Health Subject Guides to learn more!

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