Non-defense discretionary coalition? We’re in

Non-defense discretionary: Say that three times, fast.

Okay, it’s a terrible name for a coalition, but descriptive in a jargon-y way. In the federal budget, there are several components: entitlements, discretionary programs and interest on the debt. Within the ‘discretionary’ slice, are defense and all other programs (non-defense) that are subject to annual appropriations. Non-defense discretionary programs include science, education, agriculture, justice and more.

Advocates for various non-defense discretionary programs began meeting together this year to plan ways to educate policymakers about the potential costs of the large automatic cuts (sequester) that are threatened by the Budget Control Act. The sequester was meant to be the stick that would keep Congress working together long enough to agree about ways to cut the budget before the ax would fall automatically in January of 2013. Unless Congress acts to stop or replace the provision, $109 billion will be cut from Fiscal Year 2013 spending on Jan. 2, including $55 billion from defense and $54 billion from domestic programs. Over the next nine years, the automatic cuts would reduce spending by $1.2 trillion.

Cuts to domestic programs would be even larger if the defense programs were exempted from the sequester. The budget passed by the House this past spring (but not by the Senate) would exempt defense programs from the automatic cuts.

The American Psychological Association is one of some 2,800 organizations that signed onto a letter released today by the Non-defense Discretionary Coalition, calling for Congress to address deficit reduction in a balanced way that doesn’t disproportionately affect important programs like scientific research. APA has not called for specific tax or entitlement reforms to reduce the deficit, but is on record rejecting deficit reduction measures that fall exclusively on the discretionary programs in the budget.