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White House details ‘devastating’ cuts under sequestration

Sep. 14, 2012 - 03:45PM   |  
By SEAN REILLY   |   Comments
(Michael Gottschalk / Agence France-Presse)

Scientific research would be curtailed, the ranks of federal law enforcement officers slashed, and military procurement funding whacked if Congress fails to prevent automatic budget cuts from occurring in January, the Obama administration said in a Friday report.

Across government, the impact of the so-called sequestration cuts would be “deeply destructive,” the report said.

Numerous defense programs would have to absorb 9.4 percent spending cuts while many discretionary domestic programs would be reduced 8.2 percent.

In all, cuts to discretionary spending would add up to $109 billion, the report said. The report detailed how more than 1,200 programs, ranging from the Agriculture Department’s Food Safety and Inspection Service to the Defense Department’s Afghanistan Infrastructure Fund, would be affected.

The cuts would “have a significant impact on the federal workforce,” a senior administration official told reporters in a conference call, although the report does not detail whether employee furloughs or layoffs would be needed. Military personnel and all of the Veterans Affairs Department would be exempt from the cuts. He and other White House staff spoke on condition that they not be identified.

Last year’s Budget Control Act requires the across-the board cuts — formally known as sequestration — to kick in Jan. 2 unless Congress and the White House agree on a path to reduce future budget deficits by $1.2 trillion through 2021.

The report’s dire forecast likely will bring added pressure on the White House and Congress to negotiate a long-term budget deal to avert sequestration, said Steve Bell, a former Senate Budget Committee staffer who is now with the Bipartisan Policy Center think tank.

The projected consequences of sequestration are based on this year’s spending levels and could change depending on the final version of a continuing resolution for the first six months of fiscal 2013 now moving through Congress.

The report, required by the Sequestration Transparency Act signed last month, was supposed to have been released by Sept. 6. The White House attributed the delay to the tight timeframe and the complexity of the issue.

“We wanted to produce a thorough report as fast as we could and we delivered that,” the administration official said Friday.

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