The wave of automatic defense and domestic spending cuts known as the sequester, which took effect on March 1, has left some mystery surrounding the immediacy and the scope of the effect on several federal agencies.
The sequester, if it stays in place, is expected to trim a total of $1.2 trillion from the deficit over the next decade. The 2013 portion of the spending cuts will evenly slash $85 billion from the budgets of the Pentagon and several domestic programs.
Hundreds of thousands of federal employees face unpaid time off known as furloughs that will begin taking effect next month. The scheduling of the furloughs as well as the number of days does differ from agency to agency, but will spread out over time.
Here’s the latest sequestration news from some of the agencies affected by automatic spending cuts:
- Department of Agriculture: Funding for programs under this department is expected to decrease by about $2 million for fiscal year 2013, according to a letter Secretary Thomas Vilsack sent to the Appropriations Committee last month. To counter the impact of the funding reduction, the department is looking to implement hiring freezes, curb operation costs and furlough about a third of its workforce. This could affect 600,000 low-income women depending on nutrition assistance programs; a nationwide shutdown of meat and poultry plants because inspectors will be affected by furloughs; and removing rental assistance from more than 10,000 low-income rural residents – mainly elderly, disabled and single female-headed households. Read the Agriculture Department's letter to the committee below:
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- Department Of Commerce: This agency expects its bureaus to implement hiring freezes; cut back or cancel training; and stop “critical program investments." About 2,600 National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (i.e. Weather Bureau) employees will be furloughed – it could also lose highly trained staff and partners – 2,700 positions will go unfilled, and contractors will be reduced by about 1,400, a letter to the appropriation committee stated. There will be a risk of forecasting errors. The Census Bureau will lose $46 million, resulting in unfilled vacancies and contract cuts. The Economic Development Agency’s ability to support job creation projects will be affected and there will be some 1,000 fewer jobs created. Read the Commerce Department’s full letter below:
- Department of Defense: The Defense Department’s letter to the committee points out that it faces some “extraordinary and serious budgetary challenges.” Those challenges could likely mean there will be civilian hiring freezes – the department hires up to 2,000 people a week; temporary workers will be laid off; 46,000 jobs could be affected and so could contractors; ships and aircraft maintenance will be canceled in some areas; and conferences and travel will be limited. See the full letter below:
- Department of Education: Simply put, this department said the sequestration would “create significant hardship for America’s K-12 school and post-secondary institutions.” Read exactly how in the following letter:
- Department of Energy: Thousands of federal, contractor and grant-funded personnel jobs are at risk. Basic scientific research, clean energy and national security are just a few of the areas this department said will suffer. Find out more in its letter below:
- Department of Health and Human Services: As a result of sequestration, 70,000 children will not have access to Head Start and similar services; 30,000 children will be without child care services and more than 373,000 “seriously mentally ill” adults and emotionally disturbed children wouldn’t get the care they need. Scientific research will also see some impact. Read the letter below:
- Department of Homeland Security: Law enforcement personnel could face up to 14 days of furlough; Border Patrol staff will be reduced and Immigration and Customs Enforcement will find it hard to staff the 34,000 detention beds as mandated by Congress, according to DHS. Passenger wait time at airport checkpoints will be longer because of a reduction in Transportation Security Administration workers. The Coast Guard will reduce air and surface operations by 25 percent and more than $1 billion will be cut from FEMA disaster relief fund, which could spell bad news for those affected by natural disasters. Read more below:
- Department of the Interior: Sequester cuts would slow down oil, gas and coal development on federal lands and waters because of cuts to programs that could affect permits, reviews and inspection operations. Federal payments to states and local governments may also be slashed. Check out the Interior’s letter:
- Department of Justice: The 2013 sequester will cut about $1.6 billion from the DOJ’s funds. This will result in furloughs and the loss of about 1,000 federal agents who work on violent crimes. FBI personnel could be furloughed for 14 days and there could be hiring freezes; 2,285 employees, including 775 special agents, could be cut. As for the Bureau of Prisons, it will lose more than $330 million and nearly 36,700 staff could face 12-day furloughs. The U.S. attorneys will lose $100 million from the budget, which means 2,600 fewer cases will be handled. Find out more below:
- Department of Labor: Access sites for workers needing assistance will be reduced and so will the benefits for more than 3.8 million people receiving unemployment compensation. Check out the Labor Department’s letter that follows:
- Department of the State: This agency’s budget will be reduced by $2.6 billion for the 2013 fiscal year, affecting humanitarian assistance accounts and security assistance that secure America’s borders and help prevent conflicts worldwide. Find out more in the States Department’s letter that follows:
- Department of Transportation: Approximately $1 billion will be cut from DOT budget, affecting dozens of programs. The agency said the most serious impact will be on the Federal Aviation Administration, which will see more than $600 million in cuts that will lead to a majority of nearly 47,000 employees being furloughed about one day per pay period – two days at most. Find out others consequences in the letter below.
- Department of the Treasury: Most Treasury employees will face furlough because of the sequestration law. The IRS will also be affected and in turn the taxpayers who rely on its services. The IRS will also conduct fewer tax returns reviews, meaning its ability to detect and avoid fraud will be hindered. See the Treasury’s letter below: