Sequestering: What’s Really on the List?

Lets take a look at what is expected to be affected by sequestering.  Since all “lists” are the same form with various values plugged in for each state’s unique situation, we’ll only post the “form”.  The affected groups are:

  1. Education (Title I education funds, Head Start, Special education (IDEA)
  2. Evinronmental Protection Agency (although not specifically named as such)
  3. FBI/Law Enforcement
  4. Unemployment Services
  5. Public Health
  6. Nutrition Programs
  7. Small Business Adminstration (SBA)
  8. Transportation Security Administration (TSA)
  9. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
  10. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
  11. The National Institutes of Health (NIH)
  12. The National Science Foundation (NSF)
  13. FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) and other operations of the FDA
  14. Economic Development Administration’s (EDA),
  15. Department of the Interior (DOI) and other agencies that plan for new projects, conduct environmental reviews, issue permits and inspect operations.
  16. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
  17. National Park Service
  18. Department of Health and Human Services’ Child Care and Development

    Fund

  19. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD)
  20. Emergency Unemployment

    Compensation benefits

  21. Mental Health Block Grant program
  22. Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
  23. Indian Health Service

When you read the list, some of it sounds really bad and some sounds not so bad.  We could spend less money in some of those places.  The fact is that every one of those agencies will always want more money.  Now, lets take a look at the words for some of these items that justify wanting more money.

Several of the sequster “items” listed are actually listed more than once, but reworded to make it look worse than before.  A thinly veiled scare tactic.  Here is one example:

Homelessness programs – More than 100,000 formerly homeless people, including veterans,
would be removed from their current housing and emergency shelter programs, putting them at risk
of returning to the streets.

This snippet is actually covered under other programs previously listed in the document.  By adding it again here with the phrase ” including veterans”,  Mr. Obama wants you to feel shock, sadness, anger and maybe even guilt if you do not do something to prevent the our heroes from being on the streets.    What can you do?  Other than telling your representatives to do get off their tails and do something, not much.

There are other fear generating phrases in the document.  Here is one about mental health issues expecting to tug at your heart strings for people of all ages who suffer mental illness:

Cuts to the Mental Health Block Grant program
would result in over 373,000 seriously mentally ill adults and seriously emotionally disturbed
children not receiving needed mental health services. This cut would likely lead to increased
hospitalizations, involvement in the criminal justice system, and homelessness for these
individuals. In addition, close to 8,900 homeless persons with serious mental illness would not get
the vital outreach, treatment, housing, and support they need through the Projects for Assistance in
Transition from Homelessness (PATH) program.

And to make sure he hits all the notes he throws in this one:

Tribal services – The Indian Health Service and Tribal hospitals and clinics would be forced to
provide 3,000 fewer inpatient admissions and 804,000 fewer outpatient visits, undermining needed
health care in Tribal communities.

At the very least, it is the intent of these documents to bring fear to people and make Republicans feel shame for standing their ground.   They are standing their ground because that is exactly why they were elected.  Sequestering Fear TacticMr. Obama admits the Democrats are also standing their ground and that is why they were elected.  There isn’t a problem with people doing what they were elected to do.  The problem is when one group stands before the nation and says one half of the members of a society are the problem.  Mr. Obama says he wants unity.  This document does not reflect this.  In fact, this document clearly states his willingness to divide the nation.

Most people will agree that some of these agencies should receive funding cuts or be removed completely.  The problem is, people can’t agree on which agencies to reduce or get rid of completely.  No one wants “their piece of the pie” thrown out.

The simple fact is that all of congress didn’t act in a way that would further the purposes of a government.  Instead, if they do not come to some agreement soon they will deliberately, as a single unit called congress, allow sequestering to take place.   Why shouldn’t they?  As noted in yesterday’s article, they have done it before.  

 

Image:  White House Web Site

This is Why We Prepare

When you have a family member in the military, there is an ombudsman for the command who represents the family members of the active duty member.  They send regular emails about various sorts of things relating to military life and also forward information from the ship’s captain to the family members.  These particular emails give serious cause for concern.  I removed the contact information of the ombudsman and the captain.

First this email  is sent by a U. S. Navy ship’s ombudsman:

“It has been confirmed that all of the ship’s future underway commitments have been canceled until further notice.”

Then three days later this email is sent by the same ombudsman on behalf of the Captain of the the ship:

Here is some information that may help explain the Navy’s Financial Situation.
This information was provided to us to share by Captain *******.
  I am sure that most have seen the news recently about the many decisions the Navy
has had to make to adjust to significant shortfalls in our accounts.  Here is the background,
and what the Navy is doing to prepare for the consequences of having to operate without a
spending bill this year, as well as the looming threat of sequestration.First the spending bill …
 
    Without an appropriations bill for this year, our Navy is funded under a continuing resolution
(CR) that Congress passed back in October.  It’s set to expire in late March, but it could go
much longer.  The Navy is planning for the potential that it could last the rest of the fiscal year.    Living under a long-term CR is a big problem for us.  First, it’s based on last year’s spending levels
that do not fully cover the programs and priorities the Navy submitted to Congress this year. Specifically,
the CR under funds our operation and maintenance accounts (OMN) by $3.2 billion.     Second, the Navy has experienced $1.4 billion of growth since last year’s budget was enacted: unplanned
expenses for increased naval operations in the Middle East , increased fuel costs, as well as unexpected repairs
to USS Miami (SSN 755), USS Porter (DDG 78), USS Montpelier (SSN 765), USS San Jacinto (CG 56),
and USS Nimitz (CVN 68).     And third, the CR limits our flexibility to react because it does not allow Navy to transfer funds to OMN from
other accounts, such as procurement and research, to cover these shortfalls.    In total, Navy’s OMN account will come up $4.6 billion short under a yearlong CR.  This will impact funds
for fuel, parts, ship and aircraft repairs, base operations, salaries for government employees and contractors,
and maintenance for buildings, roads and runways.  If we don’t start slowing the “burn rate” of those dollars now,
we will not have enough funds to operate the Navy through the end of the year.  So, with a focus on preserving
first and foremost the readiness of our forward-deployed forces, the Navy is: * Preparing to cancel all surface ship maintenance availabilities scheduled at private shipyards from April to September.
This will affect 30 of our 187 surface ships. These maintenance periods cannot be replaced once cancelled, causing
the condition of these ships to degrade.* Preparing to cancel all aircraft depot maintenance from April to September, affecting up to 327 aircraft and rendering
them unavailable for use.* Cutting spending by about half on base operating support. We may even cancel repair and modernization of nearly
all piers, runways, buildings and other facilities through September 2013.* Freezing the hiring of civilians and terminating temporary employees not supporting OEF mission-critical capabilities.
This will reduce our shipyard workforce by more than 3,000 – almost 10 percent of the workforce.* Reducing overhead costs by cutting IT support, cancelling conferences, and severely limiting travel. We’re even going to
cut 30 facilities demolition programs, which would have provided another $62 million in contracted support and labor.    As you may have heard, the Navy even asked the Defense Department for permission to remain at the current
carrier presence level in the Central Command region.  In other words, we will not be trying to maintain more than
one carrier there at any given time.  This permission allowed for the delayed deployment of the
USS Harry S. Truman  (CVN 75) and the cruiser USS Gettysburg (CG 64).    None of these decisions were easy to make, but I’m sure you can understand why Navy leadership needed to make
them.  Navy simply must find a way to live within spending limits in order to have enough money to make it through
the year, given the heavy demand overseas for naval forces.  Again, the focus is squarely on preserving the readiness of
Navy’s forward-deployed forces.    Navy will continue these measures – and may have to execute others, like reducing underway training for ships and
aircraft not deployed – until a spending bill is passed or we receive authority to move money to the OMN account.
And although it is the prudent thing to do, but Navy leadership knows it comes at a cost.  These cuts will affect our
long-term readiness, as well as the economies of the communities that help support and maintain our naval forces.
The Secretary and the CNO have been very public about the specific costs to local communities and shipyards all
over the country, and my expectation is that they will continue to make people aware of the very real implications to
our Navy and to the people who support us.
Second … Sequestration.

Now, if sequestration happens, it’s a whole different ballgame. Navy would then face an additional $4 billion-$5 billion
cut for this year alone, further reducing training and readiness.  And because sequestration would be triggered in
March – nearly half-way through the fiscal year – the Navy must absorb the additional cut in only a few months, requiring
even more severe reductions to the operating account.     Leadership has only recently been given permission to plan for sequestration, but the early forecasts show that it
would be virtually impossible for us to deploy follow-on forces on anything resembling a predictable schedule.
Without Congressional permission to move money from other accounts to OMN, Navy would be forced to:* Stop all deployments to the Caribbean and South America , thereby cancelling all regional exercises.* Limit European deployments to only those supporting ballistic missile defense missions.* Cut the number of ships and aircraft deployed to the Pacific by half … and cut by 25 percent days at sea and flying

 hours for all Pacific forces.* Stop stateside training and other operations for ships and aircraft preparing to deploy.From a practical perspective, this means our aviators, their aircrews, our surface Sailors and submariners will not be
properly qualified in advanced warfare techniques.  Training essentially stops.   Leadership anticipates that the delay to
Harry S. Truman’s deployment and the reduced presence in the Gulf may buy back some of the training that would have
otherwise been lost, but we don’t know exactly what that is yet.    It also means that, once training could resume, it would take us up to 12 months to deploy naval forces again.
In short, it means most of the fleet will not be ready to go anywhere by 2014.     One way to avoid this level of unpreparedness is to get Congressional approval to move unspent money from other
accounts. But even that provides only temporary relief.   If we move money from investment accounts – like ship and aircraft
construction – into OMN, we will be forced to buy fewer ships, aircraft and weapons. That will likely have a dramatic affect
on things like LCS and the Joint Strike Fighter. And breaking or renegotiating existing contracts will undoubtedly cause layoffs
and severely injure an already fragile industrial base.     Either choice – dramatically reducing OMN spending or moving unspent investment account money – results only in a
short-term gain and mortgages our future.  And the uncertainty and inability to plan will likely ripple into the FY-14 or FY-15
budgets because there will simply not be a reliable basis upon which to plan, and no certitude of funding upon which to
allocate resources.    The threat of an extended period of CR, plus the cuts required by sequestration, would fundamentally alter the Navy’s
ability to fight, train, and maintain our ships, aircraft, and other critical equipment. It makes us less able, if not incapable, in
the near-term of doing that which the nation expects of us.  And in the long run, this “perfect storm” may affect our ability to
retain the very talent we will need to function in an increasingly austere fiscal environment.     One thing is certain, however.  Your pay and benefits will remain intact. You may have seen a recent decision by Secretary Panetta
to limit your pay raise next year at one percent, but it is still a pay raise.  And we have been getting pay raises each year for more
than 10 years.  And even with all of  this budget churn, that is the only impact to your compensation package.    Navy leadership knows this uncertainty is difficult.  But they are committed to keeping you informed and to trying to
preserve our readiness as much as possible … as am I.  We will do our very best to ensure that you are updated regularly
with the latest information and forecasted impacts

As this applies to the U. S. Navy, it also applies to the rest of the armed forces.  What is your opinion?