Obama releases sequestration report

The Obama administration has released its mandated report on how sequestration may be implemented, outlining in a nearly 400-page document detailed plans for cutting federal spending by $1.2 trillion.

The Office of Management and Budget released the report Sept. 14, a week later than the deadline set by the Sequestration Transparency Act. It includes line-by-line detail on more than 1,200 budget accounts, breaking down what is exempt from sequestration and what's not.

Per the report, sequestration is estimated to result in a 9.4 percent cut in non-exempt defense discretionary funding, and 8.2 percent in non-defense, non-exempt discretionary funding. It would also cut 2 percent to Medicare, 7.6 percent to other non-exempt non-defense mandatory programs, and 10 percent to non-exempt, mandatory defense programs.

In the report and in a conference call with reporters, senior administration officials underscored their opposition to sequestration, which comes from the Budget Control Act of 2011. A "supercommittee" was chosen to hammer out agreed-on cuts, and when it failed to do so near the end of 2011, sequestration became the next step.

If Congress fails to intervene, sequestration will take effect on Jan. 2.

“I think it’s clear that the report leaves no question that sequestration would be deeply disruptive to national security, domestic investments and core government functions,” said the first of two senior officials who spoke on background. “While the Joint Committee failed last fall to reach an agreement, there is still time to act. Congress needs to come together as it should on a balanced deficit-reduction package that avoids the sequester.”

The officials stressed that the figures in the report are estimates based on assumptions and on 2012 spending levels.

“I want to emphasize that the estimates in the report are preliminary,” the official said. “If sequestration were to occur, the actual results and percentages would differ based on changes in law and ongoing legal, budgetary and technical analysis. And OMB is going to continue to work through those issues.”

Currently, 2013 budget planning doesn’t include any sequestration cuts. A continuing resolution, funding the government for six months at 2012 levels (with only a few exceptions), passed the House on Sept. 13. It's set to be taken up by the Senate next week and expected to pass.

Response to the report was swift, with groups and members of Congress quickly releasing statements reacting to the plan.

“Sequester will mean the loss of jobs, as well as much-needed services – from border security to food and drug inspection to veterans’ assistance. These losses will have a ripple effect hurting businesses, both large and small, as well as communities across America,” said NTEU National President Colleen Kelley.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) criticized the report itself and the administration’s effort as “inadequate.”

“Bottom line – the administration failed to comply with both the letter and the spirit of the law. Not only was it late, but the report OMB submitted to Congress today pays lip service to the dire national security implications of these cuts...after a year to consider this crisis, I can’t understand why they needed an extra week to produce such an inadequate report,” McKeon stated.

McKeon voted for the Budget Control Act, which passed in the House 269-161. The vote in the Senate was 74-26.

About the Author

Amber Corrin is a former staff writer for FCW and Defense Systems.

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