Acting director of the Office of Management and Budget Jeffrey Zients testifies during a Senate Budget Committee hearing in February. (Mark Wilson / Getty Images)
The FBI and Border Patrol would face job cuts and hundreds of national parks would close or reduce operations if across-the-board budget reductions take effect early next year, Jeff Zients, acting head of the Office of Management and Budget, warned Tuesday. The Federal Aviation Administration also would face “significant cuts in operations,” he said, and food safety and workplace safety inspections would be slashed.
The automatic budget reductions, known as sequestration, would chop overall domestic spending by about 8 percent, Zients wrote in an article posted on Politico.com’s website. But because the cuts would take effect Jan. 2, or three months into fiscal 2013, “the actual percentage cut to the remaining funds could easily reach double digits,” he said.
Defense spending would be hit by a comparable amount; Zients, however, did not discuss the potential impact of sequestration on the Pentagon.
The cuts are required under the Budget Control Act, signed last year, unless lawmakers and the White House agree on another route to reducing long-term deficits by $1.2 trillion. A congressional supercommittee failed to reach a deal last fall. Many experts see no chance of a resolution before the November elections.
Up to now, Zients and other OMB officials have been reluctant to even acknowledge they are planning for sequestration, let alone discuss possible consequences. Under a bipartisan amendment to the Senate version of a farm aid bill approved last month, however, OMB would have to report within 30 days on the impact of sequestration on both defense and non-defense spending. The bill still needs House approval.
While Congress should act on the Obama administration’s plan to head off the cuts, Zients wrote, “OMB will continue planning for the sequester” and “answer further questions about its operation as time moves forward.”
An OMB spokesman did not reply to an email Tuesday seeking more information on the status of the budget office’s planning efforts for sequestration and the potential impact on individual agencies and programs.