Defense & National Security

Sequestration report: Embassy security cut by $129 million

Sequestration report: Embassy security cut by $129 million
Security guards outside the graffiti-covered walls of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, Egypt.

A White House report released Friday itemizing budget cuts under sequestration is specific enough to be troubling, but likely will leave many in Congress wanting to know more.

The Office of Management and Budget report, required under a law the president signed in August, came prefaced with a partisan introduction that subtly blamed Republicans for the bipartisan Budget Control Act that birthed the sequester last year and called their plans to replace it with entitlement cuts “irresponsible.”

“Members of Congress should work together to produce a balanced plan that achieves at least the level of deficit reduction agreed to in the BCA that the President can sign to avoid sequestration. The Administration stands ready to work with Congress to get the job done,” the introduction reads, adding later that a balanced compromise solution would make the top two percent of earners in the U.S. pay “their fair share.”

Though the 394-page report is replete with specific planned line-item cuts to spending accounts, the introduction also makes clear that the figures are preliminary and not binding, making it difficult to use the bulky document for planning purposes.

“If the sequestration were to occur, the actual results would differ based on changes in law and ongoing legal, budgetary, and technical analysis,” it hedges.

Even as guide, however, the analysis makes it clear that descriptions of the sequester as “devastating” do not overstate the case.

The report covers the cuts to be assessed in FY 2013 alone, adding up to nearly $110 billion in defense and non-defense spending. Most domestic programs are assessed an 8.2 percent across-the-board cut, while military programs shoulder a greater burden with a 9.4 percent cut.

A number of departments are exempt from cuts, including most, but not all, operations related to Veterans’ Affairs, most mandatory spending, and tellingly, much of Medicare, a favorite Democratic program that faces only a two percent cut with the sequester.

The salaries of all members of Congress are also exempt under the law, though the pay of those in their offices might still be cut.

In military programs, the cuts are especially vague. DoD operations and maintenance are assessed a $3.8 billion hit, Defense Health Programs will be diminished by $3.27 billion, and Navy shipbuilding funds will be reduced by more than $1.4 billion, according to the report. But there is no itemization of weapons systems or personnel to determine what these losses mean in practical terms.

In a statement released this afternoon, House Armed Services Committee chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) chastised the White House for paying “lip service” to Congress’s request for clear details on how the sequester would affect defense.

“The report does reveal a shocking lack of planning on the part of a White House that brought sequester to the table in the first place,” he said. “…With just over 3 months until a second half-trillion dollars in cuts are imposed, no proposal from the President to avert them, and no predictability on how OMB will apply the cuts – the Commander in Chief appears to be willing to leave the military without either resources or strategy.”

In non-defense spending, one of the most eye-catching budget gouges in the wake of this week’s deadly attack in Libya is $129 million that would be slashed from U.S. embassy security.

Aviation security, administrated by the Transportation Security Administration, will be cut by $429 million, and the Secret Service stands to lose $136 million.

Other alarming cuts include $1.4 billion in funding for NASA, and 3.27 billion to be taken out of Defense Department health programs alone.

There are many spending reductions that will cause frustration on both sides of the aisle. Sequestration will dice $256 million from federal student aid, over $1.3 billion from special education programs, and more than half a billion from National Science Foundation funding.

Interestingly, sequestration would cut $436 million from the enforcement arm of the Internal Revenue Service, which may defeat Democratic efforts to raise revenues even if they are successful in increasing taxes.

Sequestration will cut more than $1 trillion in spending in broad strokes over the next decade if Congress does not come up with a replacement plan.

A new plan passed by the House of Representatives last night presents an alternative to sequestration that would cut discretionary spending and require the president to submit his own cuts, but that, like previous replacements passed this year, has received a veto threat from the White House.

 

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