Federal Agencies Hit By Budget Cuts Object to Budget Cuts


Shocker of the day: People who manage federal agencies aren't happy that the sequestration might reduce funding for federal agencies. As I noted earlier, The Washington Post looked into what might happen to various agency budgets and programs should the sequestration process actually kick in. Turns out that reducing planned spending might actually mean cutting out a program or two, and the folks who run those programs don't want that to happen. And neither do the private contractors and researchers who rely on public grants to fund their projects.

I'm sympathetic, actually: It's no fun at all to see your program discontinued or your job cut back, and of course everyone has arguments for why their program is valuable and shouldn't be cut. But that's part of what can happen when relying on taxpayers to pay the bills. Public funding inevitably means a politicized funding process, one that's subject to the shifting whims of Congress.

You can see that in the complaints the article notes about how agency managers have had to plan for sequestration: 

"Across the system millions of dollars were spent in shutdown procedures and gearing-back-up procedures," said Joan Anzelmo, a park superintendent from Colorado who retired four months later.

This time around, a frustrated senior executive at the Department of Homeland Security said he and his staff have spent countless hours remaking budgets for every contingency.

"First we were told not to develop plans" for sequestration, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to speak frankly. "Then we spent seven days a week coming up with them and [the cuts] got postponed. Now we're doing it all over with new targets. It's taking away from what we need to get done."

Office of Management and Budget spokesman Steven Posner declined to comment on the planning costs. But Jeffrey Zients, the OMB's acting budget director, warned lawmakers last summer that any planning "would necessarily divert scarce resources" from other important missions and priorities, "to say nothing of the disruptive effects this exercise would have" on federal workers and contractors. 

If one of the biggest problems with the possibility of sequestration is that federal agencies might have to plan for how to deal with sequestration, then there's probably not that much to worry about.