The Grim Realities of Sequestration
Last summer, members of Congress agreed to raise the debt ceiling by creating legislation containing a measure that had the sole purpose of being so outrageous, Representatives and Senators would have seemingly no choice but to come up with an alternative before it was put into place. The Budget Control Act (P.L. 112-25) contains a provision calling for deep cuts to the federal government through the process of sequestration. Federal workers will face across-the-board cuts on Jan. 2, 2013, if elected officials fail to find a way to reduce the budget by $1.2 trillion. This means smaller staffs, reduced agency budgets and doing more with less.
Federal managers and all federal workers are already facing an increasingly stressful work environment. They are almost at the end of the current two-year pay freeze, yet are constantly facing legislation calling for an extension, as well as cuts to personnel. While many view these cuts as a means to reduce the size of government, it leads to federal agencies’ inability to meet their missions and goals, resulting in the American public becoming less confident in the abilities of the federal government.
Members of Congress and the Administration have stated repeatedly that sequestration needs to be avoided. However, little has been proposed to address the colossal ramifications if the cuts take effect. The House of Representatives and Senate passed legislation requiring the White House to release a detailed report on how federal agencies are planning for the implementation of mandatory across-the-board cuts. In response, Office of Management and Budget Acting Director Jeffrey Zients voiced concerns that instead of determining ways to avoid sequestration, Members of Congress are more concerned with the effects of the cuts.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO), Congressional Research Service (CRS), and George Mason University (GMU) have released reports on the effects of sequestration if it is enacted. All reports found the cuts from sequestration would have a drastic impact on the federal workforce and the economy. CBO reported across-the-board cuts from sequestration would result in an eight percent reduction in domestic spending. Additionally, CRS found federal agencies will see a 12.1 percent cut in agency spending. This would result in federal agencies further stretching their dwindling resources in order to provide critical services. GMU found that not only will sequestration affect the federal workforce, but also the economy as a whole. These cuts will result in increases in unemployment in both the public and private sectors, as well as a reduced Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The study found spending cuts affecting the Department of Defense (DOD) and non-DOD agencies would cause a loss of 2.14 million jobs, a reduction to GDP of $215 billion, and a decrease of personal earnings of $109.4 billion. Not only will sequestration affect the public sector, confidence in the private sector will also decrease.
Morale within the federal workforce is already waning. The effects of the federal pay freeze and constant bashing from Members of Congress and the public are seen through high turnover rates and diminished recruitment. While many in the House and Senate have claimed the federal government is incapable of meeting the demands of the American people, the effects of sequestration will ensure this prophecy comes true. A balanced approach should be employed for deficit reduction, ensuring a shared sacrifice that does not disproportionately target the federal workforce. As federal managers, we will do all we can to meet the congressionally mandated missions we have been charged to undertake.
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