Washington, DC - U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) today held a Full Committee hearing on the Impacts of Sequestration.
Hearing witnesses included: the Honorable Danny Werfel, Federal Controller, Office of Management and Budget; the Honorable Arne Duncan, Secretary, U.S. Department of Education; the Honorable Janet Napolitano, Secretary, U.S. Department of Homeland Security; the Honorable Shaun Donovan, Secretary, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; and the Honorable Ashton B. Carter, Deputy Secretary, U.S. Department of Defense.
Her opening statement, as prepared for delivery, follows:
"Good morning. Today is the Appropriations Committee's first hearing of the 113th Congress. I'm delighted to be here with my new Vice-Chairman, Senator Shelby. Senator Shelby and I have worked side-by-side for many years, and together we will continue the Committee's strong tradition of bipartisan cooperation.
"The sequester begins March 1st unless Congress acts to stop it, so this hearing is both timely and critical. My goal today is to put some sunshine on the impacts of the impending sequester on the missions of our federal agencies and on the critical services that taxpayers rely on. The public has a right to understand how the services of the government they rely on will be impacted by sequestration.
"Taxpayers deserve to know, for example: Will Social Security offices have reduced hours? Will timeliness and accuracy of weather warnings be affected? How will cuts to State and local education benefits impact local schools and our children? Congress and the American people deserve to know what will happen to essential Federal services if sequester is not stopped.
"Over the past several months, the Defense Department and its contractors have been the most vocal and the loudest about the terrible impacts of sequester on our military readiness, our national security workforce, and our economy. We appreciate the Defense Department's brutal honesty. Their direct approach shows the need to speak truth to power.
"However, the Department of Defense is not the only agency impacted, and I am deeply troubled by the impacts of sequester on the missions of each of our federal agencies, the critical services they provide that Americans rely upon each and every day, as well as the impacts on our federal workforce and our economy.
"Today, we will examine these impacts across the government; from our national security agencies like Defense and Homeland Security, to our domestic agencies like Education and Housing and Urban Development. This hearing is the culmination of my efforts to examine the impacts of sequester on all of our Federal agencies, both domestic and defense.
January, I wrote to major federal agencies and asked for impacts of
sequester. Today, I am releasing the
response letters and I want to thank the Administration for responding to my
"I also instructed my Committee staff to analyze the impacts of the sequester's across-the-board cuts on every federal agency in the context of the expiring Continuing Resolution (CR). Today's hearing will examine the real world impacts of what sequester means for the American people.
cuts that are automatic and across-the-board to every government program,
project, and activity. For this year alone, sequester is an $85 billion cut to
be shared equally by defense and domestic programs. It is currently estimated
that the across-the-board cuts to achieve this savings will be the equivalent
of a five percent cut to all domestic activities and an eight percent cut to
defense. Some might say, 'Chairwoman
Mikulski, it's just five percent. What's the big deal?'
"A five percent cut this late into the fiscal year often translates into a double whammy for our agencies because fixed costs like rent and utilities can't be cut. The big cuts will be to salaries, which means furloughs, layoffs, and services not delivered to the American public. And I want to remind everyone -- additional cuts will come due when Congress acts on the expiring CR. The Fiscal Cliff deal cut $4 billion from fiscal year 2013. Offsets to Hurricane Sandy cut another $3.4 billion. These cuts will have to be enacted when Congress acts on the expiring CR in March.
"To most people, sequester sounds like very technical 'accounting speak,' but the bottom line is sequester cuts programs and sequester hurts people. Let me give you some examples.
"Sequester will mean job cuts not just for people who work directly for the Federal government, but also for those people who work because of the Federal government. These are the jobs of people who keep our communities safe:
- 15,000 traffic controllers would be furloughed for more than two weeks;
- 5,000 fewer border patrol agents;
- 1,000 fewer FBI, DEA, ATF agents and US Marshals to combat violent crime and terrorism here in the US;
- Front line law enforcement personnel of the Department of Homeland Security would be furloughed for at least 14 days;
- 1,300 fewer correctional guards and correctional staff to securely confine inmates in Federal prisons;
- 2,100 fewer inspections of food manufacturers to keep us safe from illnesses like E.Coli and Salmonella; and,
- 1,000 jobs lost that design, build and operate weather satellites. This delays the launch of next-generation weather satellites by two to three years and puts emergency managers at risk of not having forecasts, watches, and warnings during severe weather.
"Sequester devastates education and health care:
- Cuts Federal special education support for 7,200 school staff including teachers, aides and administrators for special education students, shifting these costs to state and local taxpayers;
- Slashes Federal Title I support, meaning more than one million fewer students will be served in high-poverty schools;
- Women, Infants and Children (WIC) would be cut by more than $300 million. This means that 600,000 low-income women and children won't get nutrition assistance.
- Four million fewer meals for Seniors; and,
- Nearly 7,400 patients with HIV will lose life-saving treatment.
"Sequester delays Social Security services. While Social Security is mandatory and seniors will still get their checks, Social Security offices would have reduced hours, and some additional offices would close altogether. This would delay benefits for the 8.2 million Americans filing for retirement and disability benefits this year.
"The Pentagon will eliminate 46,000 temporary civilian employees. That's just the tip of the iceberg. All of the Department of Defense's 800,000 employees will be furloughed one day a week for the rest of the year, and 30,000 Navy shipyard and maintenance employees would be laid off.
"In the intelligence community there will be furloughs for the intelligence workforce, resulting in reduced collection of national intelligence. Intelligence analysis, our physical security, and our national security will be at most risk.
'The sequester was never intended to happen. It was designed as a tool to force a grand bargain on reforms to the tax code and reforms to mandatory spending, along with strategic, targeted cuts to reduce spending and get more value for the dollar. Those reforms have not happened. Instead, we play the politics of delay, lurching from deadline to deadline. No one thinks that this kind of 'ultimatum politics' is good for the fragile economy, creating good jobs, and promoting efficiencies in government.
"I remind everyone that the economy contracted during the final quarter of 2012. This decline was due in large part to reductions in spending by the Pentagon and by defense contractors anticipating the sequester. And yet despite that fact, some people still say, 'Let sequester happen. Spending is out of control, we need to cut spending.'
"Well, since fiscal year 2010, in Appropriations, we've cut discretionary spending by $47 billion. In three years, we cut 11 percent from domestic, non-defense programs. We have agreed to more cuts in the Budget Control Act (BCA) that was signed into law on August 2, 2011, and which includes top line spending levels for discretionary spending. The Budget Control Act cuts $1.2 trillion over 10 years.
"One other argument I hear about goes something like, 'Just $85 billion is needed to get rid of the sequester. Surely we can cut our way out of that.' Let me remind everyone, sequester is every year for nine years. That's $109 billion every year on top of the cuts mandated by the Budget Control Act, on top of $1.2 trillion in cuts over 10 years. If we stop sequester for this year, we still face it for eight more years.
"What will that mean? Lower spending levels will continue to squeeze domestic needs; including infrastructure, innovation, education, and safety net programs like special education and Head Start.
"We need a balanced solution to stop sequester. A balanced solution is one that includes reforms to the tax code, reforms to mandatory spending, and strategic cuts that acknowledge cuts already taken. We are not likely to find that solution by the March 1st deadline, so I support a solution through the end of the year to prevent the immediate catastrophe of sequester. But we must keep working toward a long term solution that is balanced and sustainable. We must stop sequester for our workforce and for our economic recovery.
"We've got excellent witnesses today. I look forward to their testimony."