White House: Sequestration Would Mean Hundreds of Thousands of Furloughs

USDA food safety inspectors could be furloughed two weeks. USDA food safety inspectors could be furloughed two weeks. AP file photo

The White House on Friday put out a fact sheet reiterating that the across-the-board spending cuts slated to take effect on March 1 would result in widespread furloughs of federal employees who provide critical government services from tax collection to law enforcement.

Because the sequester would occur later in the fiscal year than originally planned, non-defense agencies would be forced to absorb a 9 percent cut for the remaining seven months of the year, and the Defense Department would see a 13 percent cut, the White House said.

In a briefing with reporters on Friday, U.S. Controller Danny Werfel said he was not aware of any specific furlough notices that had gone out to federal employees, but added that “there’s no way to implement the sequester without significant furloughs of hundreds of thousands of federal employees.”

Asked for more precise numbers of federal employees and contractors that would be affected, he said: “I just know it’s high; it’s in the hundreds of thousands of employees, but I don’t have a specific estimate.” 

The “severe impacts” across the government the Obama administration highlighted in its fact sheet include:

  • Loss of more than 1,000 FBI and other law enforcement agents
  • Justice Department furloughs of hundreds of federal prosecutors
  • Furloughs of all Agriculture Department Food Safety and Inspection Service employees for approximately two weeks
  • An unspecified number of furloughs at the Internal Revenue Service that would lead to more fraud slipping through
  • Reduced hours at Social Security Administration offices
  • Taking Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspectors “off the job for some period of time”

The statement comes as the administration is trying to convince Congress to again delay the across-the-board cuts until lawmakers and the White House can agree upon a longer term deficit reduction plan.

In response to the fact sheet, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, agreed sequestration is bad but said Republicans had passed legislation to replace the cuts and now it was up to Obama to propose something. “Without a plan to prevent his sequester, the president is out of excuses,” Boehner said.  

The National Treasury Employees Union said it has had very "preliminary" discussions with agencies about sequestration, but that it still lacks detailed information. The White House fact sheet underscores, however, that the impact would be significant, the union said in a statement.

"There are those in Congress to whom sequestration is just another political bargaining chip,” NTEU President Colleen Kelley said. “The realities laid bare by this fact sheet clearly show that sequestration would be a disaster, and would slow economic growth and job creation.”

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.