The potential sequestration scheduled for January 2013 creates a lot of uncertainty for the government, but if that dreaded scenario occurs, then the recently enacted six-month spending measure makes some things clearer.
Federal employees have wondered how the six-month continuing resolution funding the government through March would affect the automatic, across-the-board spending cuts set to take effect Jan. 2, 2013. One Government Executive reader asked, “I think a lot of us are confused about how the CR at 2012 levels inter-relate with sequestration impacts. Will we toodle along at 2012 funding levels for six months and then [see] draconian cuts in the second half of the year if the reductions are implemented?”
The short answer is, no. Here’s the long answer: If lawmakers can’t agree on an alternative, then agencies will use the sequestration formula to assign cuts in January to more than 1,200 budget accounts, as the law mandates. Those cuts will be apportioned throughout the remaining nine months of fiscal 2013; the figures in the formula are based on the current six-month continuing resolution that sets fiscal 2013 funding at the level the 2011 Budget Control Act mandates, keeping spending at the fiscal 2012 rate for agencies and federal programs with an across-the-board increase of 0.6 percent over the base rate, for a total of $1.047 trillion.