The recent, and likely prolonged, shutdown of the US government by President Trump and a dysfunctional Congress will have an impact on companies certified to ISO 9001 and AS9100 in interesting ways.

For a while I have criticized the ISO certification scheme for its reliance on private enterprises, like the IAF, which are wholly unregulated and answerable to no one. The IAF and its attendant accreditation bodies and certification bodies ignore published and approved ISO standards for accreditation, ensuring that everyone gets their ISO 9001 or AS9100 certification even if they releasing products that kill people. I’ve argued there needs to be government oversight, and then arrests made when people die as a result of the IAF scheme’s abdication of duties.

Here’s the flipside of that argument. The Trump Shutdown won’t have a dramatic effect on ISO certified organizations exactly because it’s not overseen by government agencies. Those who argue that “governments are evil” can finally rejoice.

But there will be effects, just not how you expect them.

First, travel is likely to be impacted dramatically in the coming weeks. The TSA security agents are working without pay, and are likely to continue to “call in sick” rather than engage in forced, unpaid labor (which in other countries, we’d call “slavery.”) For now, the “sick outs” appear to be disorganized and random, but are likely to get the attention of union organizers who will use this as a weapon against the Trump administration. This will only get worse before it gets better.

Furthermore, the FAA will run out of money, and traffic control operators and other related staff will also face having to work while unpaid. That will only last for so long before they, too, have to walk off the job to find meaningful employment in any other reliable industry, even if it’s as a Walmart greeter. Getting paid minimum wage is still better than working for $0 per hour.

All of this means flight delays, cancellations, and long, long lines at airports.

ISO 9001 and AS9100 relies on air travel: both consultants and CB auditors travel routinely by air, rarely by car, and so this means canceled or postponed audits. As readers of the Oxebridge site will know, I petitioned the IAF and IAQG to add rules to allow extensions of certification renewal deadlines in the event of natural disasters an national emergencies, such as earthquakes and floods, and the powers that be refused. To them, a flood that kills thousands is just a way to make more money by forcing companies to undergo a full new “initial registration audit” when their certificate elapses during the disaster. Yes, they are ghouls.

So given that, they are not likely to offer extensions if their auditors can’t arrive on schedule audit days, or if your consultant can’t arrive on time to help implement the standard prior to Audit Day. If this happens, well, it’s tough shit. You’re out of luck, and the CBs and ABs just stand to make more money charging you for audits not conducted and “restocking” fees. You may lose your certification solely because auditors can’t audit you on time, and your certification will lapse. Then you can say goodbye to any customers who, unrelentingly, demand you hold permanent certification.

The Trump Shutdown is also likely to impact on your ability to win government contracts to begin with. Government agency GCOs (government contracting officers) won’t be working in key agencies and as a result, won’t be awarding anyone contracts. That bid you’ve been working on for six months is likely to be stalled, and if you were banking on winning it, you’ll be put in deep freeze until the shutdown ends. Which, if Trump is right, may last for years. Time to start moving to commercial contracts, and not government.

Finally, for those already serving government agencies under existing contracts, you won’t be paid for work already performed. This means a loss of income for your internal payroll, as well as bankrolling your own expenses for, again, “years.” This will put some smaller government contractors out of business entirely.

Nothing good will emerge from this shutdown, as nothing good ever emerges from any shutdown. Those in the scenarios above need to start planning, if they haven’t already. In addition, for those applying strategic “risk-based thinking,” the risks associated with frequent and unnecessary government shutdowns should be addressed in your QMS, with appropriate survival plans defined and ready to execute. Your nightmare just became reality.

Yay, America!



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    About Christopher Paris

    Christopher Paris is the founder and VP Operations of Oxebridge. He has over 30 years' experience implementing ISO 9001 and AS9100 systems, and is a vocal advocate for the development and use of standards from the point of view of actual users. He is the author of Surviving ISO 9001:2015. He reviews wines for the irreverent wine blog, Winepisser.