Democrats forecast sequestration’s toll on nondefense programs, jobs
With most of the warnings against automatic budget cuts focusing on defense, Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday released a detailed projection of sequestration’s likely harm to domestic programs, including air traffic control and border protection.
In an Oct. 9 Dear Colleague letter signed by Rep. Norman Dicks, D-Wash., the panel’s ranking member, Democrats elaborated on the pending 9.4 percent cuts in discretionary defense spending in fiscal 2013 and the 8.2 percent cuts in discretionary nondefense programs that would kick in Jan. 2 unless Congress and the White House reach a new budget deal.
“There are many reasons to prefer a grand bargain on deficit reduction to formulaic, indiscriminate cuts in discretionary spending,” Dicks wrote. “In part, it is important to see how these cuts will affect Americans in order for sequestration to motivate Congress to agree on an alternative. In addition to the specific, misguided policy impacts illustrated below, there are broad economic reasons to disapprove of sequestration. The mechanical approach divides 10 years of deficit reduction into 10 equal installments. However, imposing a heavy dose of austerity during a weak recovery undermines one of the fundamental economic principles of deficit reduction.”
Dicks cited a Congressional Budget Office forecast that the absence of a new budget agreement would cause a new recession with 9.1 percent national unemployment, and a Congressional Research Service prediction of a loss of 1.4 million jobs next year.
Seconding the Office of Management and Budget’s position that all efforts should be made to avoid sequestration, the letter also predicted an additional 1.9 percent cut in defense because of a special separate procedure in the 2011 Budget Control Act that enforces a “firewall” between security-related and nonsecurity-related spending.
On the domestic side, the letter lays out precise numbers on the impact of cuts, based on percentage reductions OMB outlined in a September report. The Homeland Security Department, it said, would lose more than 24,500 jobs, including 3,400 Border Patrol agents; 3,400 Customs and Border Protection officers; and 7,200 Transportation Security Administration officers.
In the Transportation Department, the letter continued, the Federal Aviation Administration would lose 2,200 air traffic controllers, technicians and support staff. This likely would reduce the number of flights per day, it said, and delay the NextGen air traffic control modernization program.
Cuts in food safety, the letter said, would impede implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act and reduce the number of inspectors at processing plans, which in turn would cause plant closures.
The Justice Department would eliminate 7,500 positions, including 3,000 from the FBI; the Drug Enforcement Administration; and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; as well as U.S. marshals and 1,000 attorneys. The Bureau of Prisons would see a 10 percent reduction in correctional officers and a 30-day furlough of all remaining staff. All remaining Justice staff would be furloughed for 25 days. Some 5,400 court staff would be downsized or furloughed.
At the Commerce Department, the National Weather Service would be saddled with a “significant weather data gap of two to four years from [a] polar-orbiting satellite, putting American communities at greater risk of major weather events,” the report predicted. There would be cuts in clean water and safe drinking water funds, and 110 new local agreements would not be executed, jeopardizing as many as 10,780 new jobs in building water infrastructure.
Cutbacks in financial regulation, according to the letter, would delay enforcement examinations with the Securities and Exchange Commission and stall implementation of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Financial Reform Act.
International health programs would serve 3 million fewer malaria treatments; 2.5 million fewer women would receive family planning services; 650,000 fewer students would receive basic education; 270,000 fewer patients would receive HIV/AIDS medication; and 60,000 fewer would receive tuberculosis treatments.
In domestic social services, 100,000 fewer children would be enrolled in Head Start, and 20,000 Head Start employees would lose their jobs. Cuts in special education grants would result in 12,000 fewer special education teachers and aides, affecting more than 500,000 students with special needs. Cuts in Title I grants would mean 16,000 fewer teachers and aides nationwide, and cuts to skills training programs would remove 4,300 at-risk youth from the Job Corps and related programs.
In health care, sequestration cuts would mean 1,000,000 fewer patients served in community health centers and an estimated 45,000 low-income women would not receive breast and cervical cancer screenings. There would be 2,400 fewer National Institutes of Health research project grants awarded, and 1,600 fewer National Science Foundation research and education grants supporting 19,300 fewer researchers, students and technical support staff.
In anti-poverty programs, some 900,000 participants would be dropped from the Women, Infants and Children Supplemental Nutrition Program; 80,000 fewer low-income children would receive child-care; there would be 200,000 fewer participants in Section 8 housing, resulting in evictions; and 100,000 fewer people would be served by homeless assistance grants.
Finally, congressional offices would each be hit with a $100,000 reduction and the White House would be forced to reduce spending on travel, staff and IT systems for the National Security Council, the Homeland Security Council, the Council of Economic Advisors and the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office.
In defense, the letter warned that cuts would “severely constrain resources for housing, training and equipping the troops,” and that it would “slow plans to modernize the helicopter fleet, impair the fielding of electronic warfare capabilities, make it more difficult to avoid a carrier-based strike fighter shortfall, slow efforts to field new surveillance aircraft, and disrupt the schedule of military space launches.” Such cuts, it added, also would reduce funding available for psychological health, traumatic brain injury, and suicide prevention activities, as well as the Defense Health Program.”