Digital Version of March/April 2015
Digital Version of January/February 2015 Print Edition
‘Sequestration’ cuts would hit a wide variety of DHS programs and offices
The automatic spending cuts that are due to begin in January if Democrats and Republicans fail to reach agreement on massive deficit reductions -- a process that is being called “sequestration” -- would cut about $580 million from FEMA’s disaster relief program, another $183 million from FEMA’s state and local programs, $454 million from ICE, more than $700 million from CBP (including $33 million for border security fencing), and dozens of other DHS programs and offices.
Those cuts were enumerated in a lengthy document issued by the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on September 14 to provide detailed insights into the budgetary pain that will be inflicted by the sequestration process throughout the federal government.
Within DHS, cuts to “discretionary” spending programs typically amount to 8.2 percent of the previously budgeted amount, while cuts to “mandatory” spending programs are trimmed by a slightly smaller amount, typically 7.6 percent, according to the OMB report.
Some of the larger and more visible budgetary whacks will hit the U.S. Secret Service ($136 million cut from operating expenses); TSA (which will see its Federal Air Marshals trimmed by $79 million, its aviation security program cut by a whopping $429 million, its Transportation Threat Assessment and Credentialing program reduced by $20 million and its surface transportation efforts cut by $11 million); and the U.S. Coast Guard (whose operations will suffer a cut of nearly $300 million in both its defense-related and non-defense operations, another $115 million in acquisition and construction funds, and $8 million from its maritime oil spill efforts.)
According to the OMB report, some specific security-related programs within DHS were completely exempt from the planned sequestration cuts, but the document did not explain why those programs would be spared. For example, just over $1.3 billion in spending by the Federal Protective Service (FPS), whose mission is to guard federal buildings, property and personnel, was exempt from the budget ax and will not see any of those funds slashed. Similarly, more than $3.5 billion in the National Flood Insurance Fund was exempted from the sequestration axe, said the OMB document, with no further explanation offered.
Among the other cuts that different units within DHS are likely to sustain are the Office of Inspector General ($12 million in cuts), the Office of Chief Information Officer ($26 million), USCIS (more than $200 million, the vast majority of which would come from “mandatory” spending), Federal Law Enforcement Training Center ($23 million), the department’s National Protection and Programs Directorate ($14 million from the Office of Health Affairs and another $23 million from the US-VISIT program), Infrastructure Protection and Information Services ($86 million), Science and Technology ($55 million) and the Defense Nuclear Detection Office ($24 million).
The fate of these sequestration cuts is likely to be affected by the upcoming November elections, which will no doubt change the composition of the Congress, and might change the occupant of the White House.