Boston University researchers have lost 10 percent of their $230 million in annual grant funding and are seeing similar delays. “Someone has to be let go and then rehired,” Provost Jean Morrison said, calling the disruption “a wasted effort and a lot of bureaucracy” for critical research on diseases from cystic fibrosis to AIDS.
NIH officials declined to comment.
Defense companies were already preparing for a shrinking military budget, a slowdown reflected in a $2 billion loss reported last week by contracting giant General Dynamics. But the sequester threat has created its own uncertainty, as the Pentagon slows and cancels orders while warning that the automatic cuts would damage military readiness.
Pittsburgh-based RTI International Metals, which sells titanium to the defense industry, halved the footprint on a new plant in Martinsville, Va., because the government slowed orders on several contracts in late 2012, including the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. RTI was scheduled to supply 4 million pounds of titanium to Lockheed Martin but instead was asked for 2 million.
“We kept production back because of the uncertainty,” said Dawne Hickton, RTI’s chief executive. “Further down the line, when the government needs to ramp back up again, it’s going to cost more.”
Some federal projects meant to improve public services have been stopped outright, and others have been abruptly delayed. The concern is that investing money now might be risky if it’s not there in two months.
Thousands of backlogged cases at the Social Security office in Rochester, N.Y., will remain that way after a long-awaited plan to double the number of judges handling hearings and appeals was put on hold.
“They came right out and told us, ‘We’d love to do it, but we don’t know if we’re going to have the money,’ ” employee Timothy Flavin recalled of the September decision.
The federal courts withheld the last $1.6 million from a project that’s modernizing an aging accounting system, pushing it back until June. The result will be “added costs to the project and lost opportunities and savings in future years,” spokesman David Sellers said.
The Air Force Reserve has pushed some of its annual two-week readiness drills to spring at the soonest, a move that threatens deployments.
“If you don’t train, your skills start degrading,” said Ron Hill, a reservist based in New Orleans. “When they say we need to deploy, we won’t be in a high state of readiness.”
And Bill Proenza, director of the Weather Service’s Southern region, decided to propose limited use of weather radar after his second-quarter budget dropped by a million dollars from the previous year. A hiring freeze left him with 66 vacancies on his staff of 900. Limiting the power-gobbling radars would save $100,000 as he braces for a sequestration that may happen, may happen for a short period or may not happen at all.
Said Proenza: “It’s penny-wise and pound-foolish to try and save a few dollars if you’re going to degrade our capacity to deliver our mission.”
Lori Montgomery contributed to this report.