What is Sequestration?

Feb 19, 2013
Press Release
What is sequestration?
Severe, automatic, across-the-board spending cuts to government programs.

 About half of the cuts are to the Department of Defense, and the rest are to non-defense programs. Many programs are protected from the sequester and will not be cut.
When do these cuts begin?
The cuts w
ere supposed to begin in January, but Congress passed a two-month delay, so now they are scheduled to begin on March 1.
How did we get here?
The debt ceiling debate in the summer of 2011 was a near-catastrophe for our country because we almost went into default f
or essentially refusing to pay the bill for items we’d already bought. 
We avoided defaulting on our debt with the bipartisan Budget Control Act (BCA): the debt ceiling would be raised until December 2012 in exchange for $2 trillion in spending cuts. The BCA also established the so-called Super Committee to recommend a deficit reduction package. In the event the Super Committee failed, the BCA provided for brutal across-the-board cuts – known as “sequestration” or “the sequester” – to cut an equal amount of spending.

Sequestration was never supposed to happen. The Super Committee could not agree to the bare minimum of cuts that the BCA required. The Super Committee failed America. The sequester was only set up to force action, not as good fiscal policy. But now because of political games it may actually go into effect.

We have a fiscal crisis. Aren’t spending cuts good?
Yes, but the sequester is like a lawnmower that cuts both your grass and your garden. We need thoughtful spending cuts. These are ugly, indiscriminate cuts that no one wants.

What do these cuts impact? 

1. Defense:
The Department of Defense is set to receive about half of the cuts -  $460 billion.

Cooper recently criticized Congress' inaction in a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee.

What military leaders have said…

                        "Cuts of this magnitude would be catastrophic to the military”
                                    - Gen. Ray Odierno, Army Chief of Staff

                        “Sequestration will cause irreversible damage."
                                    - Adm. Jonathan Greenert, Chief of Naval operations
2. Everything else:

Other programs will be cut by $460 billion over 10 years. Most mandatory programs, such as Social Security benefits, Medicaid, and food stamps are protected from the sequester. Spending on highways, Pell grants, and most veterans programs will also be spared from the cut. But dozens of other programs will face ugly cuts, things like NIH funding (on which Vanderbilt researchers rely), funding for the Centers for Disease Control (to help fight the flu), our national parks, important environmental health and safety programs, our airport traffic controllers, funding for our children’s schools, and countless other programs. Read more for examples.

Will we feel the impact in Tennessee?

In addition to the programs listed above, these cuts will hit close to home here in Tennessee. Some of the effects will be felt immediately, while others may be noticed as cuts continue.

More than forty percent of the State of Tennessee’s funding is federal. Federal money is used for our schools, agriculture, roads, law enforcement and many other vital programs. Many Tennessee programs that rely on federal dollars are protected from the sequester, but state and local officials have already begun preparing for the cuts to appropriate programs.

The State's budget faces $112 million in cuts in federal money. In addition, $250 million in defense spending could be lost in our state, and our researchers could lose $24 million in NIH funding.

What will be affected?
Tennessee is scheduled to lose more than $47 million in education money including $27 million in Title 1 and IDEA initiatives. Over 200 teacher and aide jobs will be at risk. Over 32,000 fewer students would be served and approximinately 60 fewer schools would receive funding.

Tennessee will receive $249 million in cuts to Department of Defense programs in our state. These programs include wages for employees, grants, and operating expenses for defense facilities. Over 7,200 civilian employees will be furloughed.

Family Services

2,590 fewer children will receive access to vaccines for diseases such as measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus, whooping cough, influenza, and Hepatitis B. Head Start and Early Head Start will be eliminated for approximinately 1,200 children. Up to 800 disadvantaged children could lose child care. Victims of domestic violence - up to 500 from Tennessee - would lose support from lost funds to the Violence Against Women Program.

Thousands of federal employees in Tennessee will be furloughed and lose income.

NIH Funding
We will see $24 million in cuts to projects such as cancer and diabetes research at Tennessee facilities. This could cost jobs at universities and medical centers, and limit growth of research opportunities.

Army Corps of Engineers
The Corps is closing recreation areas and sites in more than 230 locations including some in Tennessee.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Major user facilities and construction at national labs will be shut down, including at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Maritime and Border Security, Law Enforcement, and First Responders
U.S. Coast Guard: Air and surface operations would be curtailed by nearly 25 percent, jeopardizing maritime safety, drug interdiction, migrant interdiction, navigation, and safe flow of commerce along U.S. waterways.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection: Border Patrol agents and CBP officers would be furloughed for up to two weeks. In addition, CBP may also need to reduce more than 7,000 officers and agents, increasing wait times at our nation’s busiest airports by three hours or more and jeopardizing security between points of entry.
Federal Law Enforcement: DOJ would be forced to issue furloughs equivalent to the loss of thousands of positions, including approximately 1,000 federal agents and 1,300 Bureau of Prisons correctional officers, potentially compromising prison security.
State and Local Law Enforcement: FEMA’s state and local homeland security grants would be reduced by more than $120 million and DOJ’s state and local law enforcement activities grants would be cut.

Air Traffic Control
10 percent of FAA’s workforce of 40,000 would be furloughed on any given day, resulting in reduced air traffic control, canceled flights and travel delays.

Food Safety
USDA would furlough federal meat and poultry inspectors for weeks. Since plants cannot operate without inspectors, thousands of establishments would be forced to shut down or operate fewer hours—costing the industry, grocery stores and restaurants billions of dollars.

Food and Medical Product Safety
Furloughs could result in the FDA conducting 2,100 fewer food and medical product inspections at domestic and foreign facilities.
Center for Disease Control
Funding would be cut for disease monitoring and responding to outbreaks.

Cuts to Mental Health
Up to 373,000 seriously mental ill adults and seriously emotionally disturbed children could go untreated. This could lead to increased hospitalizations, involvement with the criminal justice system, and homelessness for some of these individuals.