Local elected officials and business leaders have been preparing for the possibility of across-the-board federal spending cuts set to go into effect in January. The so-called "sequestration" would affect defense and non-defense spending over the next decade. Alex Bolton, senior staff writer for The Hill newspaper discusses a report released today by Congressman Norm Dicks — the ranking Democratic member on the House Appropriations Committee — details possible impacts on the federal workforce.
What are the most significant numbers we see in this new report?
"The big number is 1.4 million jobs lost in 2013, and that is a number that the Congressional Research Service came up with. It came up with that number a week ago and its cited in the Dicks report. What's interesting about this report by Democrats on the House Appropriation Committee is that it breaks down job losses by federal departments and agencies."
"For example, there would be over 24,000 Homeland Security jobs lost, including 3,400 border patrol agents lost and 3,400 customs and border protection officers lost in addition to 7,000 transportation security officers who would lose their jobs. At the FAA, we would see more than 2,000 fewer employees in the air traffic organization. At the Department of Justice we would see more than 7,000 positions shedded, including 3,000 jobs in the FBI, CIA, DEA and ATF. These are all agents. That number also includes U.S. Marshals. One thousand attornies investigating terrorism would lose their jobs, according to the analysis. In the judiciary, there would be 5,400 fewer court staff because of downsizing and furloughs. On the education front, there would be 20,000 fewer Head Start employees. And at the NIH, we would see 2,400 fewer research grants given out."
"This would also affect members of Congress — they would see $100,000 reductions in their budgets. And we're talking each member's office. That would mean reduced travel, reduced staff, and reduced IT systems."
There have been several reports and projections about sequestered cuts before. What is significant about this document?
"There was a report last month by the Office of Management and Budget and it broke the sequestration in terms of dollars cut per agency, dollars cut per department, per program, and a percentage of the cut. This is the first report by the government that really breaks down the number of jobs that would be lost at various agencies and departments."
Some lawmakers have been working to avoid at least some of these cuts. A bipartisan gang of eight senators will meet at Mount Vernon in Virginia this week. But previous efforts by Senators have come up short. Is there any reason to think this time could be different?
"This gang of eight has been meeting for months, to no avail. There have been media reports that say they're on the cusp of something, but nothing has materialized. The difference now is we are about two and a half months from the so-called fiscal cliff, when these automatic spending cuts go into effect and when the Bush-era tax cuts expire. The thinking is that now, because time is running out, there's more incentive for this group to actually bridge the divide and agree to something significant that would cut spending and raise tax revenues on the order of $4 trillion."