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Soldiers, researchers brace for shutdown impact

By Jessica Arp, jarp@wisctv.com
Published On: Sep 30 2013 06:51:22 PM CDT
Updated On: Sep 30 2013 07:47:56 PM CDT

MADISON, Wis. -

Members of the Wisconsin National Guard and those who rely on federal funding for research in the state are closely monitoring whether the federal government heads for a shutdown Monday night.

More than a thousand members of the National Guard with dual federal and state status will be furloughed if the government runs out of money.

"It will be tough," said Maj. Paul Rickert, public affairs officer for the Wisconsin National Guard. "A lot of those federal technicians were already hit by a furlough earlier in the year, so this will be an additional impact."

Rickert is one of 210 in that group considered "essential" personnel who will continue to come to work without pay during the shutdown, along with any active-duty military members. The people in the rest of those positions may not get paid at all for time spent not working during a shutdown. The guard's drill weekend this month could even be in jeopardy.

"We would have to look at postponing that," said Rickert. "It is important that we do our drill because there's important training we have to conduct to maintain proficiencies."

Also watching closely are researchers at University of Wisconsin-Madison, where hundreds of millions in federal dollars are on the line.

"Many of us are writing grants, as there's a deadline of Oct. 7 for grants to be due," said biochemistry researcher Laura Kiessling. "We don't know what's going to happen to those grants. We don't know if there's any reason to even be applying for them."

Kiessling said a grant she's applying for would fund research grants for 10 to 12 graduate students, and that's all in limbo.

"These interruptions or uncertainties make it feel like these kinds of careers are something you can't count on," said Kiessling. "Like there's not infrastructure or support in the U.S. for our next generation of scientists."

UW-Madison's total share of federal grants for this year tops $620 million and is in the top five of research universities in the country.

A number of private companies in the city also have a few million in grants. The president of one of those told WISC-TV Monday it is waiting to see how things shake out.

Two local representatives, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., and Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., talked with News3 in the middle of the gridlock in Washington about the possibility of a government shutdown.

Full interview with Johnson.

Full interview with Pocan.

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