A Primer on the Effects of Sequestration — Ugh!

February 28, 2013 | By Jerry Ashworth | Post a Comment

We might as well lock ourselves in our bomb shelters and never return because the future looks grim, very grim. Unless some miracle, 11th hour deal is struck, the sequestration’s across-the-board cuts to discretionary programs will take effect tomorrow.

We attended a panel presentation this week sponsored by the Nondefense Discretionary United, an alliance of 3,200 national, state and local organizations that implement a wide array of federal programs serving the greater public good. Panelists included representatives from the Coalition for Health Funding, National Skills Coalition, Committee for Education Funding, National Parks Conservation Association and Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association.

Emily Holubowich, executive director for the Coalition for Health Funding and co-chair of NDD United, described the pending cuts under sequestration as, “more than numbers on a ledger.” Sequestration is a fiscal policy adopted by Congress to deal with the federal budget deficit through automatic cuts across all federal agencies for each of nine fiscal years, 2013-2021, totaling $1.2 trillion. The cuts starting Friday for FY 2013 amount to $85.3 billion. Because the fiscal year is already half over, many experts are further concerned that the last six months will bear the full brunt of cuts initially planned over 12 months.

NDD United seeks to stop sequestration in favor of targeted budgetary cuts, particularly for nondefense, discretionary programs. The alliance supports what it calls a balanced approach to deficit reduction. Sequestration, on the other hand, would initiate automatic, across-the-board cuts rather than targeted cuts that could be adjusted according to need and circumstance.

What do these cuts mean? According to the panelists, here is a bullet-point sampling of its effects:

Public health:

  • 2,000 fewer disease control specialists who detect and prevent outbreaks;
  • 900,000 community health center patients who will lose access to health care; and
  • fewer research opportunities to combat debilitating diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s.

Employment and training:

  • $500 billion reduction in workforce education and training funds in 2013 alone, affecting 2 million individuals in need of employment and training services for dislocated workers, veterans, young adults and adults requiring basic education or vocational rehabilitation; and
  • 12 million unemployed who cannot qualify for 3.5 million current job openings due to a lack of required skills training.


  • $398 million in cuts to Head Start reducing or eliminating services to 70,000 children;
  • $726 million in cuts to Title I reducing instructional support to 1.2 million disadvantaged students and eliminating 10,000 educator jobs;
  • $127 million in cuts to TRIO and GEAR UP grant programs; and
  • fewer higher education research opportunities through related $1.54 billion in cuts to the National Institutes of Health and $358 million in cuts to the National Science Foundation.

National parks:

  • $110 million in cuts absorbed by every national park throughout the system impacting 300 million visitors a year;
  • closure of some parks;
  • reduced hours for visitor access, compromising local economies that rely on park visitors impacting $30 billion in economic activity and more than a quarter million private-sector jobs;
  • a shortage of law enforcement staff that would leave archaeological and paleontological resources unprotected from looters; and
  • additional cuts to construction on top of the current $11 billion deferred maintenance backlog.

Law enforcement:

  • furloughs to federal law enforcement officers;
  • reductions to terrorist investigations;
  • reductions to child abduction investigations;
  • reductions to immigration and customs enforcement; and
  • reductions to firearms trafficking under the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Ouch! This ain’t pretty. And this is only some of the cuts the speakers mentioned; there were many more. Does anyone have an aspirin?

What are your concerns about the looming sequestration? Do you think the warnings are accurate or overkill? Let us know.


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