Flying Blind: The Impacts of Sequesters

June 2, 2013

Federal agencies are in the throes managing more than $85 billion in cuts for the remainder of fiscal 2013. The choices are not easy, but some are more visible than others. In the largely hidden world of budget execution, the furlough has emerged as the most visible symbol of the costs of the sequesters.

Furloughs are no one's idea of the way government should be managed. It is a salary cut for existing workers, and one that will have uncertain effects on service delivery across the government. Avoiding furloughs has become a widely shared goal among agency managers, congressional overseers and unions alike. In the public media, escaping furloughs has become a proxy for a well-managed agency, able to avoid the worst effects of this challenging budgetary year.

Furloughs have become the most visible and painful manifestation of the sequester, but agencies that steer clear of this strategy have not escaped the effects of the sequester. Doing the math, agencies avoiding furloughs will have to make up the cuts by cutting elsewhere. While these other cuts may not be as visible as furloughs, they can be equally draining on an agency, particularly over the longer term. 

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