Congress still has plenty of time to reach an agreement before mandatory spending cuts go into effect in January 2013 and in the meantime, administration officials said Monday that government operations for the current fiscal year will continue as normal.
“When appropriate, the Office of Management and Budget will take necessary steps to ensure that if there is a sequester [automatic spending cuts], the government is prepared for it,” said a senior administration official familiar with planning who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly on the issue.
Though the breakdown in negotiations leaves the prospect of significant automatic spending cuts — known as sequestration — that would begin next year, several government officials contacted in recent days have said they aren’t worried — at least not yet — because Congress still has considerable time to sort out future cuts.
But House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), whose district is home to thousands of federal employees, said Monday that federal managers should be preparing now for big budget cuts.
“Obviously they need to be thinking about, ‘If sequestration occurs, what impact does that have on me?’” Hoyer warned at a luncheon with reporters, according to The Federal Times. Those preparations should not only be “for their own management, but also to inform Congress and the American people that if they do this, this is what happens. If it means children are not going to be fed, kids not be educated, firefighters not on the job, you need to know, this is the consequence of our decision.”
So far, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta has warned several times that stiff military budget cuts could severely impede national security.
“The half-trillion in additional cuts demanded by sequester would lead to a hollow force incapable of sustaining the missions it is assigned,” Panetta warned again Monday night. “If implemented, sequester would also jeopardize our ability to provide our troops and their families with the benefits and the support they have been promised. Our troops deserve better, and our nation demands better.”
In an effort to help other agencies prepare, the Office of Personnel Management last week sent information to agency human resources officials to assist workers who may face layoffs, buyouts or reassignments amid restructuring and budget cuts.
The memo sent to HR officials included links to webinars on how to apply for a new federal job on the USAJobs.gov Web site, tips on how federal workers can transition to new government positions, explanations of how eligible employees may take advantage of buyouts, and information on how agencies can restructure with less money.
Of course, this information may or may not be necessary at certain agencies, but it’s clear that some administration officials are planning for the worst.
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