The Washington Post

White House budget office issues more guidance on sequester

(Jacquelyn Martin/AP) (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

The White House budget office on Wednesday expanded its guidance on how federal agencies should reduce spending if the automatic spending cuts known as the sequester take effect Friday.

In a government-wide memo, Office of Management and Budget controller Danny Werfel issued directions for handling furloughs, contracts, communication, acquisition, and federal assistance to outside entities, as well as for identifying non-essential costs.

The budget office instructed agency leaders to determine the length of time they would need to put workers on unpaid leave. It also told them to involve labor representatives in furlough talks “to the fullest extent practicable and permitted under the law.”

Federal-employee unions have said they want to maximize flexibility in how their members are placed on unpaid leave.

Labor groups also have encouraged agencies to reduce contracting costs to the highest extent possible to shield government workers from sequester cuts.

The budget office told department heads to identify contracts that they plan to cancel or adjust and said they should only enter into new contracts “when they support high-priority initiatives or where failure to do so would expose the government to significantly greater costs in the future.”

The budget office also directed agencies to apply “increased scrutiny” to hiring new personnel, issuing bonuses and making investments in training, conferences and travel.

“In light of the reduced budgetary resources available due to sequestration, expending funds on these activities at this time would in many circumstances not be the most effective way to protect agency mission to the extent practicable,” the memo said.

In addition, the budget office told agencies they should consider delaying or reducing financial assistance to outside entities such as state, local and tribal governments, as well as nonprofit organizations and businesses.


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Josh Hicks covers Maryland politics and government. He previously anchored the Post’s Federal Eye blog, focusing on federal accountability and workforce issues.

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