Sequester: Bombshell or burp?

Here’s an e-mail I got last Thursday from a friend. She’s from the metro Washington area but currently is working on a humanitarian project in one of the poorest spots on the planet. She asked: “So, how is the sequester going? Guess D.C. is in turmoil. For me, no problem. All I am doing is working for kids who don’t have shoes. Or food!”


Meantime, back in the US of A we still have (at least) the rest of the week to agonize and analyze if “IT” is going to happen and if IT does, will it mean long lines at the airport, toddlers in Head Start programs sent home hungry, and tens of thousands of federal workers (from FBI agents to EPA lawyers) being furloughed?

The Republican governor of Virginia and the Democratic governor of Maryland (both potential presidential candidates in 2016) went on TV over the weekend saying essentially the same thing. If sequestration happens, their states’ economies — built on federal and military operations — will go down the toilet. Oh, and also, the opposition party will be to blame!


So what’s it going to be? Will it happen, be delayed and, if it does, what will the impact be?

Here’s what some readers told us Monday:

*”I’m sure something is going to happen at the last minute. This is suicide for the party that gets blamed. I haven’t heard much here at the IRS. We might be some of the ones they deem essential??? As I approach 59, I’m getting tired of all this. All the government’s gridlock is just causing more and more feds to not give a damn anymore. Give me what I would receive at age 60 when first eligible to retire and $25,000 and I am out of here.” — Tony of the IRS

*”The Obama administration is crying about sequester. That brouhaha is the biggest bunch of hooey around. First of all, it’s not a cut but a reduction in the rate of growth of the budget! I keep hearing reporters say the cut will do such and such. What a load. I work in the Defense Dept. The department could easily accept this, probably without any furloughs, just by reducing waste. Maybe it would be easier if the department had some leeway from Congress on shifting $$ around, but why hasn’t the SECDEF been asking for this, instead of spending all the time wailing and gnashing his teeth about how draconian the cuts are!! I’m tired of the misinformation and misdirection that I see, both in the administration and by the media. Please continue to get it right. — Mike in Virginia

*”I am a long-time reader and…a comptroller in a DoD organization that has over 200 civilian employees. As you can imagine, there is a lot of angst about the potential furlough looming over us. I have to state, however, that DoD is crying wolf about the need to have a furlough because of sequestration. The effect of sequestration will amount to only a 10 percent cut to our FY13 budget; a cut that can be absorbed with some belt-tightening. There is no need to furlough any civilian employees. In my 30-plus years of service, I have had to deal with 10 percent budget reductions many times before and they never made the news, and we never considered furloughs to achieve the reductions. Secretary Panetta notified Congress on Feb. 20 of the potential need to implement a furlough. Congress should forbid DoD from furloughing civilian employees. If it happens, a dangerous precedent will have been set that could become a routine solution in future disagreements between the President and Congress over the budget. Federal civilian employees would become the pawns in this high stakes game of Chicken.” — Defense Dept. Comptroller

By Julia Ziegler
The L.L. in outdoor company L.L. Bean’s name stands for Leon Leonwood Bean, the company’s founder. (Courtesy of L.L. Bean)


Coburn calls for partial federal job freeze as sequestration nears
Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma is asking the Office of Management and Budget to require agencies to stop hiring for certain “lower-priority” positions and instead put that funding towards mission-critical jobs that could be affected by sequestration cuts.

OMB, agencies still crunching sequestration-related furlough numbers for non-DoD civilians
The White House doesn’t yet know how many non-Defense civilian employees will face furloughs if cuts from sequestration begin Friday. But Danny Werfel, the controller of the Office of Management and Budget, said his agency is working on it. The White House has released a state-by-state breakdown on the impact sequestration cuts could have across the nation.

Join the online chat with Federal Executive Institute Director Suzanne Logan
Join Federal News Radio’s online chat with Suzanne Logan, the director of the Federal Executive Institute, on Thursday, Feb. 28 at 11 a.m., to discuss what it takes to be a good leader in the federal government. This online chat is part of Federal News Radio’s special report on leadership and morale that starts Feb. 27. Logan will tell federal employees who want to rise to serve as members of the Senior Executive Service what it takes to be prepared for that day. She also will discuss how current federal managers can refresh their management skills and capabilities as the makeup of the federal workforce changes and the leadership environment transforms.