What is Sequestration?

What is Sequestration?

You’ve probably begun to hear a lot about something called “sequestration”. But what is it? And how would it affect your job and the program or service you help deliver to the American taxpayer?

AFGE has created this special website to answer your questions and keep you informed with the latest information. Bookmark this page and return to it often to keep up to date.

Below is a brief overview of sequestration. For additional materials about sequestration and related budget cuts, click the link at the top of this page entitled “Materials”.

What is sequestration and what does it mean?

Sequestration refers to the automatic spending cuts that are required under the 2011 Budget Control Act. This law required $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts to mandatory and discretionary programs, to begin in 2013, if Congress failed to pass legislation that would reduce the nation’s deficit by at least $1.5 trillion during the next decade. The failure of Congress to pass any deficit reduction legislation has triggered the automatic cuts required under sequestration.

These across-the-board cuts are set to begin January 2, 2013, and continue for the next 10 years. The cuts must be split equally between security and non-security programs, according to the Budget Control Act. Some programs are exempt from these cuts – including Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare beneficiaries, civil service and military employee pay, and veterans benefits. However, most programs will see automatic cuts across every budget line item.

In July, Congress passed legislation that requires the White House to provide details on how agencies will carry out the first round of cuts, which amount to $110 billion. In response, the Office of Management and Budget issued a memorandum on July 31 stating that it would begin working with agencies on such plans barring congressional action on a “balanced deficit reduction plan”.

Sequestration by the numbers

For 2013, the across-the-board cuts would mean the following, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:

  • About an 8.4 percent cut in non-defense discretionary programs
  • A 7.5 percent cut in affected defense and security programs; this includes the Defense, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs departments, the National Nuclear Security Administration, some management functions of the intelligence community, and international affairs programs funded through the State Department
  • A 9.0 percent cut in affected mandatory programs other than Medicare
  • A 2.0 percent cut in Medicare provider payments

These amounts are not proportional to every budget that is to be cut. Smaller budget items will have to make major sacrifices, while larger items will barely be affected.

What this means for you

By cutting funding to government programs, there will be a downgrade in services that many people rely on every day. From food inspections to park maintenance, there will be less funding, forcing the organizations to cut back on area that they shouldn’t have to.
Many organizations will adjust to the budget cuts by cutting jobs, potentially leaving millions jobless.


Author: AFGE Local 704

Representing over 900 bargaining unit employees working at the U.S. EPA Region 5 Offices in Chicago, Ann Arbor, MI and Westlake, OH.

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