OMB to agencies: We’ll help you plan for sequestration, but we hope it doesn’t happen

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

The Office of Management and Budget will begin “holding discussions” with federal agencies on steps to take in the event of sequestration, according to a memo sent Tuesday.

OMB acting Director Jeffrey Zients wrote in the instructions that sequestration -- automatic, across-the-board cuts to federal agencies set to take place on Jan. 2, 2013, as a result of the 2011 Budget Control Act -- is bad policy and Congress should act quickly to avoid it.

“The president remains confident that Congress will act,” he wrote, “but because it has not yet made progress toward enacting sufficient deficit reduction, OMB will work with agencies, as necessary, on issues raised by a sequestration of this magnitude.”

The initial discussions, Zients said, will involve which of the agency’s programs and accounts are exempt from the cuts. His office also will help agencies prepare for reporting requirements included in the Budget Control Act.

He said OMB will continue preparing agencies for sequestration, but he could not provide further details until fiscal 2013 spending levels are known. Lawmakers reportedly have reached a deal on a six-month stopgap spending measure to keep agencies running after the end of fiscal 2012 on Sept. 30.

“In the meantime, agencies should continue normal spending and operations,” Zients instructed.

The memo comes after the House passed legislation demanding the White House provide details for how sequestration would be enacted.

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