If Sequestration Happens, What's Getting the Ax?

By Matt Vasilogambros

February 21, 2013

President Obama has been warning that deep cuts triggered by sequestration could be devastating for the military and other government programs. But many Republicans, determined to see a reduction in federal spending, show no sign of wanting to cut a deal with the president to avoid the sequester.

Since the defense sector would see a large cut in its funding, several lawmakers and former officials have argued that it would weaken the standing of the United States on the world stage, empowering countries who threaten U.S. national security. Dov Zakheim, who served in several Defense Department posts in Republican administrations since the Reagan era, said the reductions could hinder the modernization of U.S. forces, among other impacts.

“What kind of message does that send to the Iranians or the Chinese or our allies?” Zakheim said. “There’s a real issue of American credibility. Most people around the world have no idea what the sequester is about. They can’t understand it.”

Here are some of the programs that would be pared as part of the sequester, according to a report by the White House Office of Management and Budget and letters from administration officials:

Air Travel: An estimated $619 million would be cut from the operations and facilities and equipment accounts of the Federal Aviation Administration, according to a report by House Appropriations Committee Democrats. This could mean major flight delays and an economic hit on the millions of people who depend on air travel every day.

National Parks: In order to cut 5 percent of its budget, the National Park Service would have to slash $110 million, according to Coalition of National Park Service Retirees . The NPS has already begun to plan for sequestration by cutting park hours and visitor services in some of the nation’s leading national parks—from Yosemite to the Great Smokey Mountains. The group estimates that over a million visitors to the nation’s 12 leading national parks would experience the effects of the budget cuts, as several of the parks would have to close visitor centers, restrict campsites, limit train access, and delay spring road openings.

The Pentagon: The Joint Chiefs of Staff, along with Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey, testified before the House Armed Services Committee last week, outlining the major cuts to the Pentagon. Here are some of the looming cuts:

Health Services: In a letter to Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius outlined the significant impact to the nation’s health services if sequestration goes into effect.

Humanitarian Aid: In his first major speech as secretary of State, John Kerry said the budget battles in Washington could hurt the U.S. effort to provide economic and political aid across the world. He underscored those concerns in a letter to Mikulski last week, saying the State Department would have to cut $2.6 billion for this fiscal year. In addition to potentially delaying visa requests and hindering peacekeeping efforts, here are some programs Kerry said could face cuts:

Border Security: U.S. Customs and Border Protection employees could get furloughed for 12 to 14 days, which could lead to increased waiting times for border cross and cause flight delays. In addition, 5,000 border patrol agents and 2,750 customs officers would be cut.

Education: If sequestration goes into effect, $406 million would get cut in Head Start programs, resulting in 70,000 children losing access to the service. That would lead to the layoffs of 14,000 teachers, teacher assistants and staff who work in the program.

Disaster Relief: The Federal Emergency Management Agency would receive a $1 billion cut, while also losing over $120 million in homeland security grants.

Law Enforcement: The Department of Justice is being cut $1.6 billion, which will result in furloughs. Addition cuts to law enforcement areas, officials argue, could mean missteps in the judicial system.

Additional Cuts: The National Science Foundation ($375 million), the Library of Congress, NASA ($950 million), the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Patent and Trademark office will also receive millions of dollars in cuts

Exemptions: Not all federal government programs are getting the ax. There are several mandatory spending programs that will not see any cuts, including Social Security, Medicaid, food stamps, veteran’s benefits and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.


Time Until Sequester:

By Matt Vasilogambros

February 21, 2013