The process of shutting down the federal government is underway.

With the clock ticking towards Friday’s federal budget deadline and President Obama hosting congressional leaders for budget talks at the White House on Tuesday, top administration officials have instructed agency officials to begin sharing details of shutdown contingency plans with top managers. This marks the next step toward both curtailing government operations if a budget impasse occurs and informing federal workers whether they are considered “essential” personnel who would stay on the job despite a shutdown.

Though Obama and congressional leaders remain committed to avoiding a shutdown, “given the realities of the calendar, good management requires that we continue contingency planning for an orderly shutdown should the negotiations not be completed by” Friday at midnight, Office of Management and Budget Deputy Director Jeffrey Zients said in a memo. The message was sent to the government’s deputy secretaries and chiefs of staff, who handle day-to-day management issues for agencies and departments.

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