Sequestration Nation: What is Sequestration and What You Need to Know Right Now

United States Capitol BuildingThe Ultimate Deadline – March 1, 2013

The “Budget Control Act of 2011” doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but if you care about research, you should be paying attention to what’s happening in Washington DC, again, right now. Right after the new year, Congress dealt with an aspect of the BCA 2011 by delaying the effects of sequestration – and passing a bill that would implement revenue increases to partially address our nation’s budget deficit. What Congress didn’t do was to address the aspect of the legislation that imposes serious spending cuts – they deferred this decision until March 1, 2013. Which is, as you can tell, right around the corner. You can read a bit about this issue from a prior R.A.N. post, and there is an excellent briefing on sequestration by the A.A.A.S. to bring you up to speed on the effects of the drastic cuts proposed to scientific research.

What is Sequestration?

Sequestration is a legislative term for a series of mandated across the board spending cuts that will affect “discretionary” spending in the federal budget if Congress cannot decide how to meet the terms of the Budget Control Act of 2011 and make spending cuts on their own. The result will be to cap almost all defense and non-defense categories, with few exceptions for the next decade.

The Fiscal Cliff is Near – Plans Are Being Implemented

The President asked all Federal government agencies to prepare to reduce or downsize their operations if Congress did not enact legislation that would fulfill the legislative mandate of the Budget Control Act. Despite the fact that the deadline has not yet arrived, the plans are already being set in motion in some parts of the world – the Defense Department has stalled ships that it would have ordinarily deployed into foreign ports, and has started the 45 day notice to furlough civilian workers if needed. Other agencies are taking similar measures. It is unclear if measures will affect the levels of grants being awarded (actual grants going out the door) or the dollar amounts of awards (less money to researchers).

UPDATE: The NIH just posted its plans for sequestration in a notice to grantees. It’s just what you’d expect to see – they are operating currently under a continuing resolution, and have funded current awards at a reduced level as a result. Under sequestration, they plan to continue this practice and anticipate that the ICs will be affected by making fewer awards.

The Time To Act is NOW

If you support scientific research and the pursuit of knowledge – and believe that the Federal government needs to prioritize its funding role, contact your legislators and let them know. The Federal government is the largest funder of research in the nation, and these cuts will drastically affect the pace of scientific progress, educational advancement, and the pace of economic growth in our nation.

Contact Your Member of Congress Today – Stop these Budget Cuts

Be sure to contact your Representative (Member of the House of Representatives) and Senator on your own time (not at work) as contacting them at work would be construed as lobbying, which is often against institutional policies and not permitted if your institution receives Federal funding. (I’m writing this post on my home computer at night.) I’ve provided links here to the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate websites and they have handy search functions to help you find your Representative and Senator by your zip code.

I’m not sure what’s going to happen this time – I hope we’ll have a last minute agreement to prevent the sequestration from going into effect. But it won’t happen unless we all make our voices heard!

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