Many furloughs would not take place until April if the automatic spending cuts known as the sequester take place on March 1, according to an Obama administration official.

Office of Management and Budget controller Danny Werfel on Thursday echoed what the administration said last month in a memo to federal agencies, telling the Senate appropriations committee that “legal requirements” would delay the onset of unpaid leave for defense workers if Congress fails to approve a debt-reduction deal before the March deadline.

Werfel was referring to the requirement for agencies to bargain with unions and provide 30 days notice before furloughs take effect. But the government could implement other cost-saving measures before the furloughs would take effect.

“Sequestration is bad policy, and the administration believes that Congress should pass balanced, bipartisan deficit reduction to avoid it,” Werfel said. “If allowed to occur, sequestration would have significant and destructive consequences for domestic investments, national security, and core government services.”

Werfel summarized the government-wide impacts of sequestration this way:

“It would mean fewer teachers to educate our children, less funding for schools to help disadvantaged students with children with disabilities, less research into life-threatening diseases. It would cut nutrition assistance for vulnerable populations, and reduce funding for essential mental health programs.


It would keep federal agencies from conducting the inspections necessary to keep our food, our air, and our water safe and clean. It would make our country less secure at home, reducing our ability to protect our borders, stay ahead of emerging cybersecurity threats, and keep crime off our streets and out of our neighborhoods. And it would make us less safe abroad, by causing critical degradations in the support for and readiness of our armed forces.”


Asked about food inspections and air-traffic controllers, Werfel said neither would be exempt from sequestration. He explained that food-manufacturing plants may experience temporary shutdowns because they cannot operate without inspections and that nearly all air-traffic controllers would face unpaid leave.

More information about the impacts of the sequester is available in The Washington Post’s roundup of recent warnings from high-level officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter.

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