With Sequestration Six Months Away, Activity to Avoid the Cuts Ramps Up

By Steve Pierson posted 07-13-2012 10:17

As part of the deal last year to avoid government shut down, a joint House and Senate committee -- the "super committee" -- was established to identify more than a trillion dollars in budget cuts over 10 years. Because that committee failed, the "sequestration" across-the-board budget cuts are scheduled to take effect in January, 2013. These automatic cuts to all discretionary spending would significantly cut the budgets of most government agencies/departments (e.g., 9.1% to the FY13 Department of Defense (DOD) budget).

For NIH and NSF, a Research!America report on the impacts of sequestration on health research estimates 8% budget cuts. The report says this would reduce grant success rates to 14% for NIH and 16% for NSF in FY13 (from an estimated 19% and 22%, respectively, in FY12.) The statistical agencies are also subject to cuts of this magnitude, although I've seen no specific estimates for them.

Because of the impacts the budget cuts would have, discussions are underway on a new law to avoid the sequestration for at least DOD, according to a July 11 Politico piece titled, "The cuts no one believes will come." Politico and the other Capitol Hill newspapers, Roll Call and The Hill, routinely have pieces or columns on sequestration.

Efforts urging Congress to take action have also been picking up. A Tuesday op-ed by OMB Acting Director Jeffrey Zients urges Congress to pass "balanced deficit reduction that will avoid the sequester." Thursday,  3000 organizations (including the ASA) sent a letter to Congress urging a balanced approach to deficit reduction that does not include further cuts to [non-defense discretionary] programs. Wednesday 150 university presidents sent a letter to Congress and the administration to "prevent deep across-the-board spending cuts due to take effect in January as a result of budget sequestration, and to reach 'a major, balanced long-term deficit-reduction agreement that will reduce budget deficits, rein in the nation’s debt, and create economic and job growth...'", according to the APLU press release.

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