|57 Consequences of the Sequester|
|By CHRIS GOOD (@c_good)||Feb 20, 2013, 6:59 PM|
If the heads of 20 federal agencies are to be believed, disastrous consequences await if President Obama and Congress fail to reach a budget deal, triggering the automatic, across-the-board cuts known as "sequestration."
Those cuts are slated to begin March 1, and earlier this month, the Senate Appropriations Committee asked agency heads to explain what would happen in such a scenario.
Read more: Sequestration: D.C.'s Weird Idea of Cuts
In separate letters to Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., they warned of terrible things: Greater risk of wildfires, fewer OSHA inspections and a risk of more workplace deaths, 125,000 people risking homelessness with cuts to shelters and housing vouchers, neglect for mentally ill and homeless Americans who would lose services, Native Americans getting turned away from hospitals, cuts to schools on reservations and prison lockdowns. There's also a higher risk of terrorism with surveillance limited and the FBI potentially unable to disrupt plots, closed housing projects, and 600,000 women and children thrown off WIC.
In short: Unless a budget deal is cut, the country will be in deep trouble, according to the Obama administration's highest-ranking agency officials.
Read more: As Pols Fundraise, Is Sequester Inevitable?
The White House disseminated some of these projected cuts in a press release this month, and it seems possible that some alarmism is going on: No agency head wants to see his or her budget cut, and President Obama has lamented the sequester's unfortunate consequences while browbeating House Republicans to vote for tax hikes. Obama called them "meat-cleaver" cuts in a speech on Tuesday urging Congress to avoid them.
At the same time, some of the projected cuts would leave vulnerable parts of the population without vital services.
With the House in recess and with Obama playing golf over the weekend, a deal does not appear imminent. More likely, sequestration will kick in for a few weeks, a deal will get done later, and the cuts will be undone, rearranged, or replaced by revenue from higher taxes. But if no deal happens, here's what the agency heads warned will occur under a full year of budget sequestration:
After a $600 million Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) funding cut, furloughs would mean fewer air-traffic controllers and fewer flights.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood: "[A] vast majority of the FAA's nearly 47,000 employees will be furloughed for approximately one day per pay period until the end of the fiscal year in September, with a maximum of two days per pay period. ...
"The furlough of a large number of air traffic controllers and technicians will require a reduction in air traffic to a level that can be safely managed by the remaining staff. The result will be felt across the country, as the volume of travel must be decreased. Sequestration could slow air traffic levels in major cities, which will result in delays and disruptions across the country during the critical summer travel season. Aviation safety employees also would experience significant furloughs that will affect airlines, aviation manufacturers, and individual pilots, all of which need FAA safety approvals and certifications."
Even the Travel Security Administration (TSA) is not exempt from sequestration, and fewer workers would mean longer lines. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano: "Funding and staffing reductions will increase wait times at airports, affect security between land ports of entry, affect CBP's [Customs and Border Patrol] ability to collect revenue owed to the Federal Government, and slow screening and entry programs for those traveling into the United States. ... The Transportation Security Administration would reduce its frontline workforce, which would substantially increase passenger wait times at airport security checkpoints."
Government weathermen would feel the sequester, too. Cuts to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which runs the National Hurricane Center and handles large-scale weather forecasting for the federal government, would mean 2,6000 furloughed employees, 2,700 unfilled positions, and 1,400 fewer contractors.
That could mean less reliable predictions of major storms, warned Deputy Commerce Secretary Rebecca M. Blank: "The government runs the risk of significantly increasing forecast error and, the government's ability to warn Americans across the country about high impact weather events, such as hurricanes and tornadoes, will be compromised. ... Significant and costly impacts to NOAA's satellites and other observational programs are also certain. For example, sequestration will result in a 2-3 year launch delay for the first two next-generation geostationary weather satellites (currently planned to launch in 2015 and 2017), which track severe weather events such as hurricanes and tornadoes.
"This delay would increase the risk of a gap in satellite coverage and diminish the quality of weather forecasts and warnings. Sequestration will also reduce the number of flight hours for NOAA aircraft, which serve important missions such as hurricane reconnaissance and coastal surveying. NOAA will also need to curtail maintenance and operations of weather systems such as NEXRAD (the national radar network) and the Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System (used by local weather forecast offices to process and monitor weather data), which could lead to longer service outages or reduced data availability for forecasters."
UPDATE: NOAA communications director Chris Vaccaro points out that the cuts are slated to be applied across NOAA, not specific to the National Weather Service or the National Hurricane Center.
Cuts to the Department of Agriculture would mean less wildfire prevention and greater risk, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack warned: "Increased risk to communities from wildfires with as much as 200,000 fewer acres treated for hazardous fuels" were among the consequences he listed in his letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack wrote that the sequester would mean "a reduction in assistance to States for pest and disease prevention, surveillance, and response, potentially leading to more extensive outbreaks and economic losses to farmers and ranchers."
After furloughs to the Food Safety and Inspection Service, meat and poultry plants will have to shut down, as no one will be around to inspect their products. Agriculture Secretary Vilsack warned of "a nationwide shutdown of meat and poultry plants during a furlough of inspection personnel.
The furlough could result in as much as 15 days of lost production, costing roughly over $10 billion in production losses, and industry workers would experience over $400 million in lost wages. Consumers would experience limited meat and poultry supplies, and potentially higher prices, and food safety could be compromise."
A furlough of nearly 36,700 Bureau of Prisons staff for an average of 12 days could "endanger the safety of staff and over 218,00 inmates," Attorney General Eric Holder wrote to the Senate Appropriations Committee on Feb. 1.
"As a consequence, BOP would need to implement full or partial lockdowns and significantly reduce inmate reentry and training programs. ... This would leave inmates idle, increasing the likelihood of inmate misconduct, violence, and other risks to correctional workers and inmates. Further, eliminating inmate programs such as drug treatment and vocational education would, in fact, lead to higher cost to taxpayers in the long run." Holder said he is "acutely concerned about staff and inmate safety should cuts of the sequestration's magnitude hit BOP" and called it a "dangerous situation."
FBI Director Robert Mueller warned in a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee: "Timely processing and searching of National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) requests for purchases of firearms would be affected by sequestration. On average, approximately 43,500 NICS searches are performed daily. The Brady Act requires the NICS checks to be completed in three business days or the Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL) can legally transfer the firearm to a purchaser—without a final NICS determination.
"The FBI is also mandated to provide an immediate determination no less than 90 percent of the time. Delays in processing and adjudicating NICS requests increases the risk of firearms being transferred to a convicted felon or other prohibited person which, in turn, would have a significant detrimental effect on public and law enforcement safety at a time when the NICS workload is expanding."
FBI would furlough personnel for up to 14 days, Attorney General Eric Holder wrote: "This would have the equivalent effect of cutting approximately 2,285 onboard employees, including 775 special agents."
Unable to hire immigration judges, the federal government would see immigration applications pile up.
Holder wrote: "The sequestration would cut over $15 million from [the Executive Office for Immigration Review] EOIR's current budget. EOIR would be forced to cease all hiring of key critical positions for EOIR's immigration courts, including Immigration Judges, likely increasing pending caseloads to well over 350,000 (an increase of 6 percent over September 2012 levels." EOIR would also cut contracts for interpreters, legal support, and I.T. staff."
Secretary of State John Kerry wrote to the Senate Appropriations Committee on Feb. 11: "Reductions in funding would jeopardize the Department's efforts to provide secure, error-free travel documents to those eligible to receive them, while denying them to those not eligible. Reduced funding would also undermine progress made in ensuring that visa requests are processed in a timely fashion."
SOCIAL SAFETY NET, HEALTH, and EDUCATION
Cuts to the Department of Health and Human Services would mean fewer services for vulnerable parts of the population.
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius warned in a Feb. 1 letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee: "Sequestration could compromise the health and well-being of more than 373,000 seriously mentally ill adults and seriously emotionally disturbed children who potentially would not receive needed mental health services, which could result in increased hospitalizations and homelessness. "In addition, we expect that 8,900 homeless persons with serious mental illness might not receive the vital outreach, treatment and housing, and supports that they need to help in their recovery process. Admissions to inpatient facilities for people in need of critical addiction services could be reduced by 109,000, and almost 91,000 fewer people could receive substance abuse treatment services."
Housing vouchers, shelter programs, and rural rent assistance are also on the chopping block.
Housing and Urban Development Secretary wrote on Feb. 5: "About 125,000 individuals and families, including elderly and disabled individuals, could lose benefits from the Housing Choice Voucher program and be at risk of becoming homeless. ... These cuts would also result in more than 100,000 formerly homeless people, including veterans, being removed from their current housing and emergency shelter programs, putting them at risk of returning to the streets."
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack also warned about "elimination of rental assistance for more than 10,000 very low income rural residents, generally elderly, disabled, and single female heads of households. With an average income of approximately $803, these Americans are the least able to absorb rent increases and would face very limited options for alternate housing if landlords increase rents to cover the loss of the rental assistance programs."
The low-income nutrition assistance program would see cuts, too. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack warned of "a reduction of 600,000 low-income women and children who could receive nutrition assistance and associated nutrition education and breastfeeding support through the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants (WIC)."
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius wrote: "Sequestration would impair the Department's ability to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS. The cuts to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) translate into approximately 424,000 fewer HIV tests conducted by CDC's health department grantees.
"The Health Resources and Services Administration estimates that 7,400 fewer patients would have access to life-saving HIV medications through the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP). This would cause delays in service and drug provision to people living with HIV and potentially lead to ADAP wait lists for HIV medications."
HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan: "These cuts to the Housing Opportunity for Persons with AIDS program would result in 7,300 fewer low-income households receiving permanent and short-term supportive housing assistance, including rent and/or utility assistance."
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius:" The cuts required by sequestration could slow efforts to improve the delivery of health care to American Indians and Alaska Natives through the Indian Health Service (IHS) and would result in about 3,000 fewer inpatient admissions and 804,000 fewer outpatient visits provided in IHS and Tribal hospitals and clinics. IHS may lack resources to pay for the staffing and operations of five health care facilities that tribes have built with their own resources, with a total tribal investment of almost $200 million."
Without money to maintain low-income housing, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan warned that "sequestration would force public housing agencies to defer routine maintenance and capital repairs to Public Housing, leading to deteriorating living conditions and, over the long-term, risking the permanent loss of these affordable units that serve 1.1 million of the nation's poorest residents." Sequestration cuts "would prevent state and local communities that receive HOME grants from building and rehabilitating 2,100 affordable housing units for low-income families," Donovan wrote.
Head Start provides family and developmental education services to families with young children, and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius warned that "up to 70,000 children would lose access to Head Start and Early Head Start services. This impact would be felt across the nation, with community and faith-based organizations, small businesses, local governments, and school systems laying-off over 14,000 teachers, teacher assistants, and other staff.
"Services for children and families would be disrupted, with some Head Start centers needing to close their classrooms early this school year or reopen their programs late in the fall. Programs would have to cut services, staff, and classrooms for the 2013-2014 school year. In addition, sequestration would further impact our ability to help families succeed by leaving up to 30,000 children without child care services."
Social Security checks won't stop because of sequestration—those payments are exempt from cuts—but Social Security Commissioner Michael J. Astrue wrote on Feb. 7 that administrative cuts could mean the administration is slow to process disability claims and send money.
"Even with productivity increases over the last five years, if we do not have enough staff to keep up or if furloughs prevent them from working, the public can expect to wait longer in our offices, on the phone, and ofr disability decisions at all levels. If sequestration occurs, we estimate that visitors to our field offices could wait for almost 30 minutes to see a representative, and callers to our 800-number would wait almost 10 minutes for us to answer," Astrue wrote.
"The pending levels of initial disability claims would rise by over 140,000 claims, and on average, applicants will have to wait about two weeks longer for a decision than on an initial disability claim and nearly a month longer for a disability hearing decision," he continued. "With each furlough day, we should not be able to complete roughly 20,000 retirement claims, over 10m000 disability claims, and 3,000 hearings."
The Department of Education would cut $725 Million from its Title I grant program for schools with large shares of low-income and special-needs kids, Education Secretary Arne Duncan warned in a Feb. 1 letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee. The program serves 23 million low-income and 6.5 special-needs students.
The Department of Education would also cut $60 million from a $1.2 billion aid program for K-12 school districts on federal lands, including Indian reservations, Duncan wrote to the committee. One school in New Mexico, for instance, would lose nearly $2 million for 7,500 children.
On top of that, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar warned that "cuts to Indian education programs will directly impact school services and scholarships offered to attend schools in the 2013-2014 academic year. The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) schools would have the choice of reducing staff, services, or the number of days in the school year."
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar warned the committee that "tribes would lose almost $130 million in funding from the Department. Reductions would be necessary in many areas including human services, law enforcement, schools, economic developmetn, and natural resources. ... Reductions will cut short the availability of assistance programs to the neediest of Indian Country by 3 or 4 months. Payments would stop to approximately 2,400 needy Indians for each month the General Assistance program is shut down."
NATIONAL and INTERNATIONAL SECURITY
The FBI's ability to catch terrorists and stop plots will be mitigated, according to director Robert Mueller. The cuts include personnel furloughs and stalled investigations."
Mueller wrote to the Senate Appropriations Committee: "Counterterrorism operations and investigations would be impacted by the loss of investigative, intelligence, and other personnel needed to identify and assess individuals with known or suspected terrorist ties. Further, the FBI's ability to proactively penetrate and disrupt terrorist plans and groups prior to an attack would be impacted. High priority investigations would stall as workload is spread among a reduced workforce. Overseas operations would be substantially scaled back, including in-theater support in Afghanistan where U.S. military and coalition operations rely on FBI investigative and forensic programs."
He continued: "State and local law enforcement participation in Joint Terrorism Task Forces and Field Intelligence Groups would be reduced due to funding constraints, resulting in less sharing of threat and intelligence information among agencies. Some Joint Terrorism Task Forces may be eliminated ... Response times at the Terrorist Screening Center and the Foreign Terrorist Tracking Task Force would increase due to lack of personnel, potentially allowing individuals on watch lists to gain entry to the United States."
FBI won't have the staff to translate its wiretaps. Mueller wrote: "Translation of time-sensitive conversations intercepted in compliance with court orders and other materials would be delayed, potentially resulting in missed opportunities to identify and disrupt operations being carried out or planned. Backlogs of materials requiring translation and unprocessed raw intelligence would grow."
FBI also won't be able to conduct as much surveillance of "high priority national security targets." Mueller wrote: "Deployment of sophisticated—but labor intensive—surveillance and digital forensic techniques will be reduced, resulting in missed opportunities to collect and analyze intelligence information on high priority national security targets. The number of unaddressed surveillance requests would grow and the FBI's surge capability for 24/7 coverage would diminish."
Counterintelligence will also face cuts, raising the risk that foreign spies will gain access to classified national-security information, Mueller warned: "U.S. classified information and national defense information would be more vulnerable to compromise by foreign intelligence operations due to reduced counterintelligence staffing and operational capability. Proactive initiatives to create and maintain counterintelligence awareness would be reduced in scope."
Border Patrol will face cuts, Department of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano wrote to the committee: "U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) would not be able to maintain current staffing levels of Border Patrol Agents and CBP Officers as mandated by Congress."
Sequestration means less security at U.S. nuclear facilities, Energy Secretary Steven Chu wrote to the committee: "Our security posture at sites and facilities would be eroded due to project deferrals and workforce reassignments." Sequestration would also "degrade the internal oversight function of DOE nuclear facilities and reduce the depth and frequency of audits and evaluations needed to ensure ongoing robust security operations," Chu wrote.
FBI Director Robert Mueller also warned that the FBI wouldn't be able to respond as quickly to a "WMD incident": "Timely deployment of FBI Render Safe capabilities and resources—a critical component to the integrated U.S. response in the event of a domestic WMD incident—would be negatively impacted due to furloughs and inability to conduct replacement hiring of WMD specialists. Maintenance of operational capabilities and readiness would be affected by reduced funding for training and exercises."
More from FBI Director Robert Mueller: "Deferral of routine maintenance or replacement of components would result in operational technology systems and equipment that are subject to more frequent breakdowns—with the potential consequence of lost opportunities to collect critical evidence or intelligence."
He continued: "The capacity of the FBI to receive and process nearly 51 million checks of electronic and paper-based fingerprints submitted by state and local law enforcement to the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) could be similarly impacted by lack of staff hiring, loss of contractor support, and the inability to provide routine maintenance and replacement of system hardware. As a result, criminals using false identities may go undetected or be released due to lack of a timely response.
"Further, fingerprints and criminal history information submitted to the FBI are used for background checks to assist in determining the suitability of persons seeking employment as school bus drivers, child care providers, teachers, law enforcement, bank tellers, and security traders, among others. Increased system downtime could also affect the ability of the FBI to process such requests."
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta wrote to the Senate Appropriations Committee on Feb. 11: "The Navy will be forced to cut back on operations in critical areas such as the Pacific. Cutbacks of one-third could occur in Pacific naval presence."
Scaled-back "training and maintenance" for Army units will harm military readiness, Panetta wrote: "The Army will reduce training and maintenance for later deploying units. By year's end, the Army expects that about two-thirds fo its active brigade combat teams (other than those in Afghanistan) will be at reduced readiness levels."
More from Panetta: "As of February 15, some Components will begin cancelling ship and aircraft maintenance work for the third and fourth quarters of FY2013. Unless we can reverse these actions, the results will eventually be fewer weapons available for deployment in future contingencies."
Panetta warned of widespread Defense layoffs in the near term: "Most Components will begin laying off temporary and term employees, again with exceptions for mission-critical activities. As many as 46,000 jobs could be affected."
Panetta wrote to the committee: "The Air Force will be forced to cut flying hours and weapon system maintenance. Most Air Force flying units (especially later deploying units) will be below acceptable readiness standards by the end of FY2013."
Fewer contracted cybersecurity workers and analysis would leave government and civilian computer networks at risk, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano wrote: "Reductions in funding for operations, maintenance and analytical contracts supporting the National Cybersecurity Protection System (NCPS) would impact our ability to detect and analyze emerging cyber threats and protect civilian federal computer networks."
Cuts to FEMA of over $1 billion would mean less relief for disaster victims, Napolitano warned: "The Federal Emergency Management Agency's Disaster Relief Fund would be reduced by over a billion dollars, with an impact on survivors recovering from future severe weather events, and affecting the economic recoveries of local economies in those regions."
Some emergency first responders are funded by federal dollars, and President Obama delivered his speech on Tuesday surrounded by cops. "Emergency responders, like the ones who are here today, their ability to help communities respond to and recover from disasters, will be degraded," he warned. Napolitano warned of possible layoffs in her letter to the Appropriations Committee, writing: "State and local homeland security grants funding would also be reduced, potentially leading to layoffs of emergency personnel and first responders."
The Coast Guard would see broad limitations in its operations, meaning fewer interdictions of illegal substances and people crossing U.S. borders by water, Napolitano warned: "The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) would have to curtail air and surface operations by nearly twenty-five percent, adversely affecting maritime safety and security across nearly all missions areas. A reduction of this magnitude will substantially reduce drug interdiction, migrant interdiction, fisheries law enforcement, aids to navigation, and other law enforcement operations as well as the safe flow of commerce along U.S. waterways."
Both economic and military aid would be cut, Secretary of State John Kerry warned the committee. Along with a $70 million cut to the USAID budget, Kerry warned that "sequestration would force us to cut approximately $200 million from our humanitarian assistance accounts at a time when we face growing needs in Syria, the Horn of Africa, and the Sahel. ... USAID would have to cease, reduce, or not initiate assitance to millions of disaster-affected people."
On military aid: "An over $300 million cut to our Foreign Military Financing account could lead to reductions in military assistance to Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, undermining our commitment to their security at such a volatile time."
Kerry also warned that more than $400 million will be cut from the State Department's Global Health Program, including $380 million from the George-W.-Bush-originate U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).
Despite the attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, and the sensitivity surrounding U.S. embassy security in the wake of that attack, Secretary of State John Kerry told the committee that sequestration would "erode our efforts to enhance the security of U.S. government facilities, the platform for safe and secure diplomatic operations, both domestically and overseas."
Kerry also warned that Americans abroad could count on less emergency assistance: "In addition, this proposed across-the-board cut to the State Department budget would limit our ability to provide ongoing and emergency assistance to U.S. citizens abroad and curtail our efforts to facilitate foreign travel to the United States."
Acting Treasury Secretary Neal S. Wolin warned the committee: "Spending cuts required by the sequester would force a reduction in Treasury support of counterterrorism and anti-money laundering investigations, which could undermine Treasury's ability to block funds from flowing to dangerous individuals and organizations, affecting the security of all Americans."
Attorney General Eric Holder warned that U.S. attorneys would handle 2,600 fewer cases in FY2013 after cuts of nearly $100 million from their current budget.
JOBS and ECONOMY
Sequestration "could impact the integrity of the Unemployment Insurance (UI) program," Labor Secretary Hilda Solis wrote to the Committee. "For the long-term unemployed, more than 3.8 million people receiving Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits will see their benefits reduced by as much as 9.4 percent. Affected long-term unemployed individuals would lose an average of more than $400 in benefits."
Solis wrote: "The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will protect its highest priority activities but still roughly 1,200 fewer programmed inspections of the most dangerous workplaces will occur. This reduction could lead to an increase in worker fatalities and injuries. States, which enforce the law in over half of the states, will also have to furlough inspectors, and an even larger reduction in the number of inspections in State Plan States is expected."
More from Solis: "The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) will adjust funding to complete 100% of its mandatory Coal inspections, but it will likely not be able to do the same for the mandatory Metal Nonmetal mine inspections. In addition, many of the most effective activities that have caught grave workplace conditions—impact inspections, technical investigations, respirable coal mine dust inpsections, and accident prevention investigations—will be significantly reduced, potentially leading to an increase in the fatality and injury rate among miners."
The Labor Department funds job training centers, and Secretary Hilda Solis warned that some will have to close.
"The millions of dollars in reductions to these funds will lead to several hundred thousand fewer participants served. These funds help dislocated workers, low-skilled adult workers, and disadvantaged youth find jobs," Solis wrote. "Under sequestration, OJC [Office of Job Corps] will have to either permanently close more than the few low-performing centers it had planned to close in program year 2013 or close all centers for a significant portion of program year 2013."
The Labor Department also funds job training specifically tailored to veterans. Solis wrote: "the Transition Assistance Program which serves over 150,000 veterans a year may have to reduce operations—leaving thousands of transitioning veterans unserved. The Jobs for Veterans State Grants Program will also experience cuts, translating to a reduction in the capacity to serve by tens of thousands fewer veterans in their efforts to find civilian employment.
The National Veterans' Training Institute and Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program would also be reduced, further eroding the tailored services the Department can provide to veterans."
Small Business Administrator Karen G. Mills wrote to the Senate Appropriations Committee: "Sequestration would cut SBA loan subsidy by $16.68 million ... each subsidy dollar is used to guarantee an average of $51 worth of loans for small businesses. This means that sequestration would take away SBA's ability to make 1,928 small businesses loans—loans that could have helped small businesses access more than $902 million of capital. Additionally, these funds would have supported approximately 22,600 jobs in industries like manufacturing, food services and hospitality which are still struggling to recover."
Different parts of the government collect and analyze economic data, and sequestration would mean cuts to both the Bureau of Labor Statistics (unemployment and workforce data) and the Bureau of Economic Analysis. As a result, the government could collect and analyze less economic data under a sequester, according to two officials who wrote to the Appropriations Committee.
Of BLS, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis wrote: "The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is the principal Federal agency responsible for measuring labor market activity, working conditions, and price changes in the economy and its work informs and supports public and private decision-making. With millions in reductions, BLS would have to eliminate or reduce some of its programs."
Of GDP numbers and the Census, Deputy Commerce Secretary Rebecca M. Blank wrote: "Sequestration will also force a cut of $4.9 million from the Department's Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). BEA will have to terminate work on key programs that help businesses and communities better understand GDP, foreign direct investment, and the impact of changes to economic activity within a specific regional economy (e.g., the economic impact related to Sandy)."
ENERGY and ENVIRONMENT
National parks will close and limit their hours, according to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who wrote to the committee: "The public should be prepared for reduced hours and services provided by Interior's 398 national parks, 561 refuges, and over 258 public land units." Parks could "reduce hours of operation for visitors centers, shorten seasons, and possibly close camping, hiking, and other recreational areas when there is insufficient staff."
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar also warned that sequestration could force the department to "require complete closure or program elimination at about 128 refuges. Visitor programs at nearly all refuges would be discontinued."
Cuts to Interior Dept. would mean delays in oil and gas permitting, Secretary Salazar warned.
On offshore drilling, he wrote: "Efforts to expedite processing of offshore oil and gas permitting in the Gulf of Mexico would be thwarted by delays, putting at risk some of the 550 exploration plans or development coordination documents Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) anticipates for review this year."
On land: "Approximately 300 fewer onshore oil and gas leases would be issued in Western states such as Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico, delaying prospective production from those lease tracts and deferring payments to the Treasury."
If you've ever checked your local air quality, you might not be able to under a budget sequester.
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson wrote to the committee: "Sequestration would force the Agency to eliminate or significantly reduce essential air quality data systems like AIRNow, a popular air quality reporting and forecasting system." Weather.com, for instance, gets its local air forecasts from EPA.
Sequestration would force general cuts in air-quality monitoring, beyond the daily forecasts, Jackson wrote: Sequestration would reduce the funding EPA provides states to monitor air quality, likely forcing the shutdown of some critical air monitoring sites." Without monitoring, it would be harder to determine whether areas of the country meet Clean Air Act standards, Jackson wrote.
EPA checks on whether businesses comply with environmental standards, and Administrator Lisa Jackson told the committee that the "implementation of sequester could result in 1,000 fewer inspections in FY2013." Sequestration would "Limit EPA's capacity to identify toxic air emissions, water discharges, and other sources of pollution," Jackson wrote.
The Energy Department would have to curtail cleanup efforts of old U.S. nuclear sites.
Secretary Steven Chu wrote: "The Department of Energy runs one of the largest environmental cleanup and remediation programs in the world in addressing the legacy of Cold War nuclear weapons production at sites around the country. Sequestration would curtail this progress, delaying work on our highest risks at sites in Washington state, Tennessee, South Carolina, and Idaho."