White House Unveils Sequestration Plan
OMB issues report on budget cuts that would take place if Congress doesn't act.
Updated: September 14, 2012 | 5:51 p.m.
September 14, 2012 | 5:10 p.m.
U.S. weapons purchases would be
slashed, programs to protect food and water safety would take a hit, and
crime-prevention programs would be scaled back if Congress fails to act
to prevent automatic cuts known as the sequester from taking effect at
the beginning of next year, the White House warned on Friday.
by the White House Office of Management and Budget described
sequestration as a "blunt and indiscriminate instrument" and said the
cuts would be harmful to the country. They are mandated by the 2011
Budget Control Act, which requires across-the-board cuts of $109 billion
per year for nine years in an array of government programs.
Sequestration will go into effect starting Jan. 2 unless Congress can
reach a deficit-reduction deal to head it off.
The cuts would be
divided evenly between discretionary domestic and defense spending. Most
entitlement programs, such as Social Security and Medicaid, would be
shielded from cuts. Veterans' benefits and unemployment insurance would
also be exempted.
A House GOP plan that passed the chamber on a
party-line vote earlier this year would have made additional cuts to
domestic programs in order to shift more money to defense. Congressional
Republicans have stressed the dangers of cutting defense spending, but
the primary point of contention between them and Democrats has been over
whether revenue increases should be part of any deficit-reduction plan.
394-page OMB report includes graphs and tables, but its warnings about
the consequences of sequestration were part of a push by the
administration to ratchet up pressure on Congress to make a deal on the
budget. Among the highlights from the report:
defense appropriations would be cut by 9.4 percent, while nondefense
discretionary would be cut by 8.2 percent. Percentages are based on
fiscal year 2012 spending before any adjustments made the continuing
resolution Congress is currently considering, senior administration
officials told reporters on a conference call.
- Next year’s defense spending would take a $55 billion hit, but
military pay and benefits would remain unscathed, because President
Obama has made clear that the across-the-board cuts would spare military
personnel accounts. Administrative expenses for the Veterans Affairs
Department, along with veterans’ benefits and health care, also would
- To make up for the exemption of military personnel accounts, other
Pentagon budget accounts would be cut deeper—including, for example,
spending for weapons procurement and shipbuilding.
- The Pentagon's Overseas Contingency Operations fund, the source of
money spent on the war in Afghanistan, would be subject to
cuts. However, the report states that the Defense Department would be
able to shift funds as necessary to make sure the country’s
“war-fighting and critical military readiness capabilities were not
- Last month, Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter promised a House
panel that the department would try to protect the wartime operating
budget as much as possible. Still, the sequestration could result in a
reduction of readiness for many non-deployed units, delays in
investments for new equipment and facilities, and cutbacks in military
research and equipment repairs, the report said. (Carter has previously said
civilians could face a partial hiring freeze and unpaid furloughs under
sequestration, and the Pentagon would likely buy four fewer F-35
aircraft, one less P-8 aircraft, 12 fewer Stryker vehicles, and 300
fewer Army medium and heavy tactical vehicles compared with Obama’s
fiscal 2013 request.)
- The administration does not yet have estimates of federal workforce
job losses or furloughs if sequestration goes into effect, the
administration officials said.
- Two programs established in the 2010 Affordable Care Act would be
protected from cuts — funding for an insurance pool for “high-risk”
patients who were denied coverage due to a preexisting condition and a
that aims to get consumer insurance exchanges off the ground.
- Sequestration would also reduce the account for embassy security,
construction and maintenance by 8.2 percent, an especially sensitive
detail considering the assaults on several U.S. diplomatic posts this
week, including Tuesday’s attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi,
Libya, that killed ambassador Chris Stevens and three other personnel.
Protesters, reportedly incensed by an anti-Muslim film, also stormed the
embassy compound in Tunisia’s capital on Friday, setting fire to trees
and destroying property, after similar violent protests on embassy
grounds in Egypt and Yemen.