Federal agencies are considering furloughs, as well as hiring and contracting freezes, as they prepare for the possibility of automatic budget cuts set to go into effect on Jan. 2, 2013.
The White House has directed agencies to intensify their planning, according to a Washington Post report.
Federal courts are preparing to close some district courts one day a week and implement furloughs of up to four weeks in addition to scaling back security guards’ hours. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission plans to limit outside contracts, should the cuts go through, while the National Park Service said it will slow hiring.
The Defense Department has said there is a “high probability” of both a hiring freeze and furloughs, should sequestration go into effect. Pentagon officials, however, remain skeptical that the planning is necessary.
“Plans have a way of creating their own reality,” Jamie Morin, undersecretary of the Air Force, said at an event hosted by Government Executive on Thursday, explaining the threat of job and funding cuts can create a “slowdown in activity.”
Undersecretary of the Navy Bob Work said at the event that while the “very, very preliminary” stages of sequestration preparations are under way, more serious talks will be put on the shelf for now.
“I am telling you right now we will not start planning until it is absolutely necessary,” he said.
The Office of Management and Budget has asked agencies for a “more detailed analysis of their financial operations,” the Post reported. The White House has said, however, that it is still committed to reaching a deficit reduction deal and avoiding sequestration.