The Obama administration has been relatively tight-lipped about what major domestic departments and agencies are doing to brace for the looming threat of deep across-the-board spending cuts if the White House and Congress allow sequestration to take effect March 1.
While much has been said and written about the Defense Department’s belt tightening in anticipation of about $43 billion of automatic cuts, far less is known about what major domestic agencies are doing in preparation for a similar overall reduction in spending for the remainder of the fiscal year.
White House officials have told Cabinet members and other high ranking officials that they will take the lead in message operations on sequestration, Politico reported today. But The Fiscal Times has obtained a copy of an Interior Department memorandum to all workers highlighting the likely impact and consequences if sequestration takes hold next month.
The memo, from the deputy secretary, says that the department is closely examining contracts, grants, and other forms of expenditures across the department to determine where officials can reduce costs. “In many cases, this could mean making cuts to vital programs or curtailing spending on contracts,” the memo states. “We will also take steps, wherever possible, to cut operational or administrative costs in areas such as travel, training, facilities, and supplies.” The memo also cautions that furloughs or other personnel actions are in the offing should sequestration occur.
Here is the memo:
From: DOI ADVISORY
Date: Tue, Feb 5, 2013 at 1:02 PM
Subject: ALL DOI Nationwide - Preparations for Potential Sequestration on March 1, 2013
To: All Department of the Interior Employees
From: Deputy Secretary /s/
Subject: Preparations for Potential Sequestration on March 1, 2013
As you are likely aware, the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 delayed until March 1, 2013, the across-the-board spending cuts (also known as “sequestration”) that face all Federal agencies. The Administration remains focused on working with Congress to reach agreement on a balanced deficit reduction plan that avoids these cuts. Should these cuts occur, they would be harmful not only to our Department, but to critical domestic and defense priorities across the Government and across the Country.
However, given that less than one month remains until these cuts would take effect and given that the delay enacted by Congress would give us less time in which to make the required cuts, our senior leadership team is engaged in extensive planning efforts to determine how we would deal with sequestration. I know many of you have questions, so I wanted to take this opportunity to provide some additional details.
In planning how to implement a possible sequestration, our guiding principle is to protect our ability to perform our mission on behalf of the American people. As public servants, this is our first and foremost responsibility.
To this end, we are carefully considering how to use the various tools at our disposal to reduce costs in order to mitigate as much as possible the disruption to our operations, our programs, and all of you. We will use any and all flexibilities we have to protect our core operations and mission. However, our ability to do so will be limited by the rigid nature of the cuts imposed by Congress. As a result, we are closely examining contracts, grants, and other forms of expenditures across the Department to determine where we can reduce costs. In many cases, this could mean making cuts to vital programs or curtailing spending on contracts. We will also take steps, wherever possible, to cut operational or administrative costs in areas such as travel, training, facilities, and supplies.
We may also have to consider placing employees on temporary furlough, or taking other personnel actions, should sequestration occur. With respect to furloughs, should we have to pursue this unfortunate course of action, let me assure you that all affected employees would be provided at least 30 days notice prior to executing a furlough or in accordance with the designated representative collective bargaining agreement as appropriate. We will also continue to engage in discussions with employee unions as appropriate, to ensure that any furloughs are applied in an appropriate manner meeting agency mission requirements. If you have questions on this issue, I would encourage you to go to the Office of Personnel Management website, which has helpful information and answers to frequently asked questions regarding furloughs...
You will be receiving additional information as it becomes available regarding our initial plans for implementation of sequestration, and how these plans will affect the day-to-day operations of our Department.
Thank you for your patience as we navigate these difficult issues, and for all that you do for our Department and the American people.