Administration Gets Specific About Pending Cuts

Cuts to be deeper than previously reported.

The White House Office of Management and Budget issued a news release on Feb. 8 with specific information about how the pending across-the-board cuts of sequestration would affect federal agencies. Advocates had been wondering how the level of the pending cuts had altered since passage in January of the American Taxpayer Relief Act.

According to the release, “The Office of Management and Budget now calculates that sequestration will require an annual reduction of roughly 5 percent for nondefense programs and roughly 8 percent for defense programs. However, given that these cuts must be achieved over only seven months instead of 12, the effective percentage reductions will be approximately 9 percent for nondefense programs and 13 percent for defense programs.”

The White House news release also provided examples of the impact of the cuts:

  • “Cuts to the Mental Health Block Grant program would result in over 373,000 seriously mentally ill adults and seriously emotionally disturbed children not receiving needed mental health services. This cut would likely lead to increased hospitalizations, involvement in the criminal justice system, and homelessness for these individuals.”
  • “Our ability to teach our kids the skills they’ll need for the jobs of the future would be put at risk. 70,000 young children would be kicked off Head Start, 10,000 teacher jobs would be put at risk, and funding for up to 7,200 special education teachers, aides, and staff could be cut.”
  • “Cuts to the AIDS Drug Assistance Program could result in 7,400 fewer patients having access to life saving HIV medications.”
  • “The National Institutes of Health (NIH) would be forced to delay or halt vital scientific projects and make hundreds fewer research awards. Since each research award supports up to seven research positions, several thousand personnel could lose their jobs.”
  • “The National Science Foundation (NSF) would issue nearly 1,000 fewer research grants and awards, impacting an estimated 12,000 scientists and students and curtailing critical scientific research.”

The mood in Washington is pessimistic that sequestration can be avoided this time, but some parties are busy crafting alternatives. Senate Democrats are planning to introduce a bill this week that will offer cuts and revenues and delay the sequester for a few months. Several committees, including Senate Appropriations and Armed Services, are planning hearings.  If the Senate takes up a bill the week of Feb. 25 there will be enough time to pass it before the sequester takes effect on March 1. However, there is no indication that the House would consider the bill.

APA is asking the psychological science community to write your members of Congress to remind them that the discretionary accounts have already absorbed $1.4 trillion in cuts and to urge them to support a balanced approach to deficit reduction that does not rely solely on spending cuts. Take action online and, if you haven't yet, be sure to sign up for APA’s Public Policy Advocacy Network.