Sequestration Begins To Bite

The people in charge of managing the sequester—the Office of Management and Budget—are themselves being furloughed because of it

  • Share
  • Read Later
Jason Reed / Reuters

U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks on the budget alongside acting Director of Office Management and Budget Jeff Zients, in the Rose Garden of the White Hose in Washington, April 10, 2013.

Sequestration is here — and it’s hitting the White House hard.

At the Office of Management and Budget, the executive department charged with managing the sequestration cuts, a total of 480 employees begin furloughs this week. Only a handful of political appointees are exempted. Roughly eight in 10 of the OMB’s staffers are on unpaid furlough today — and will be every other week until October. The rest will be at home without pay next Monday, an alternating schedule that will continue through the end of the fiscal year Sept. 30.

After seven weeks of worries and doubts, the mandatory budget cuts are starting to be felt across the nation. Flight delays and airport security wait times are up, EPA inspections are being deferred, and even those responsible for setting furlough policy at OMB are themselves being furloughed.

The Federal Aviation Administration plan to scale back the hours of all of its 47,000 employees — including 15,000 flight controllers — kicked in on Sunday, requiring an unpaid day off every two weeks. “Yesterday there were approximately 400 delays in the system attributable to staffing reductions resulting from the furlough,” an FAA spokesperson said in a statement to TIME. The Department of Defense’s more than 700,000 civilian employees face as many as 14 furlough days beginning in May.

Employees are prohibited from working during a furlough day even if they want to, and are barred from checking their email for the entire 24-hour period of the furlough day, as well as the preceding Sunday and following Saturday — because then they would need to be paid.

The cuts follow dire warnings from the White House in February about the mandatory sequestration cuts, which hit nearly all federal programs and offices across the board. But the administration failed to avert them as Republicans stood firm against raising revenue to achieve the required deficit reduction under the 2011 Budget Control Act, and Obama was accused of crying wolf by Republicans as the March 1 deadline came and went without much of a hiccup.

But the effects of the cuts are now becoming clear, especially in the nation’s air transit system.

On Monday morning, Delta Airlines issued an advisory to travelers to expect furlough-driven delays or cancellations in some of the biggest and busiest airports: New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, and Fort Lauderdale. The airline encouraged customers to contact their members of Congress to urge a change.

The FAA has postponed the closings of smaller control towers until June from earlier this month, but is experiencing traffic-jams in crowded airspace.

One symptom of the delays: the Associated Press first reported Monday that the 8 a.m. US Airways shuttle to New York from Washington arrived two-hours late — and after the 8 a.m. Acela express train.

Republicans have responded to the flight delays by blasting the Obama administration for furloughing flight controllers, saying the FAA can cut elsewhere — a position argued by Airlines For America, the industry trade group.

“The FAA can make other cost cuts, and deem air traffic controllers ‘essential employees,’” the organization said in a statement on its website geared toward delayed travelers, dontgroundamerica.com.

“The FAA’s management of sequestration is quickly going from bad to worse,” said House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster in a statement, which was tweeted out by Speaker of the House John Boehner with the hashtag “#ObamaFlightDelays.” “Given that the FAA’s budget increased more than 100 percent over the last 15 years, finding five percent in savings shouldn’t need to significantly impact our nation’s aviation operations.  Businesses and families across the country face these issues in their budgets every day without massive impacts.  We know that the FAA has the flexibility to reduce costs elsewhere, such as contracts, travel, supplies, and consultants, or to apply furloughs in a manner that better protects the most critical air traffic control facilities.  Yet rather than take this approach, the Administration has made choices that appear designed to have the greatest possible impact on the traveling public.”

But administration officials maintain they have no flexibility with where they can cut. Press Secretary Jay Carney said at the daily press briefing today that sequestration requires the administration to implement cuts across the board and prohibits agencies from shifting money around to keep vital staff on duty.

Updated at 2:07 p.m. to include FAA statement. The full statement is below:

As a result of employee furloughs due to sequestration, the FAA is implementing traffic management initiatives at airports and facilities around the country. Travelers can expect to see a wide range of delays that will change throughout the day depending on staffing and weather related issues. For example, the FAA is experiencing staffing challenges at New York Center and TRACON, Dallas-Fort Worth Center, Jacksonville Center and Los Angeles Center. Controllers will space planes farther apart so they can manage traffic with current staff, which will lead to delays at airports including New York’s La Guardia Airport. The FAA is working with the airlines throughout the day to try and minimize delays for travelers. We encourage all travelers to check their flight status and also to visit fly.faa.gov for the latest airport delay information.

Yesterday there were approximately 400 delays in the system attributable to staffing reductions resulting from the furlough.

43 comments
tl29szzz920
tl29szzz920

The Republican House Members are a bunch of FJA's that don't understand anything about business, finance or budgets.  Most of them are a bunch of lawyers who don't have a clue about the real world and how budgets work.  They talk in theory and ideology.  One of these days they will wake up, but that will only come when their constituency gets off their ideological ladder and focuses on the fact that government and the private sector together provide GDP not one exclusively, and that the government provides services that can't provide services that industry can or would be willing to provide consistently or in a manner where there would be little or no profit.  And that comes from someone who has only worked in the private sector.

curt3rd
curt3rd

The house passed a bill that would have let Obama make cuts with a scalpel instead of an across the board ax like he promised to do during the election.  Obama shot down the bill.  He chose to play politics instead of what is in the best interest of the country.

carolerae
carolerae

Oh, the Press is exaggerating Just Like Obama, who you told me was exaggerating!  Looks like the Press has Failed again!

BruceS78
BruceS78

Why is it so hard for most of you to understand which agencies are having to do furloughs?  There are 3 types of agencies in the Federal Government.  One type has a budget that is mostly, in some cases 90 percent or more, personnel costs.  The only way to cut the budgets of those agencies is to cut or furlough staff.  OMB and the IRS are examples of that type of agency.  Another type has its lots of costs in service or construction contracts.  This type of agency can reduce or delay contract awards and thereby avoid furloughs.  The Corps of Engineers or NASA are examples of these types of agencies.  The third type has a more restricted budget where their personnel costs are separated from their procurement budgets, so there is very little flexibility to deal with sequester cuts.  The Pentagon was an example of this type of budget before Congress gave them some additional budget flexibility.

Congress can fix and or eliminate any of these furloughs whenever they can get their act together.  There isn't any conspiracy its just the way an agency's budget is structured.

ibteri2u
ibteri2u

@TIME @TIME Govt spending is out of control. JPL-NASA engineers are earning $265,000+ per yr for jobs that don't exist in the free economy.

ibteri2u
ibteri2u

@TIME Government spending is out of control. JPL-NASA engineers are earning $265,000+ per yr for jobs that don't exist in the free economy.

kellyjo5150
kellyjo5150

If you think this air traffic controller trick isn't Obama's hard ball pay back attempt to blame Republicans over his sequester 'loss' you're a fool.  Pretty pathetic he would play politics with safety and travel but there it is.  Never pass up an opportunity to smear the opposition...real leadership be damned.  As if any Government bureaucracy couldn't cut 4%.

lapazjim
lapazjim

You want to know whats bad? Out of the online news i have been reading this is the only article i have seen on the air traffic controllers and furloughs.Do you believe that they were randomly picked to be the first.They were picked to be first for the reason of actually showing the impact of the sequester!! Does the Obama administration take us as fools?Wrong question as he does,sorry.The American people need to rethink as to whether or not come the next elections they still want to vote for their current Senate and Congress representatives or to get new ones.We should all look closely at their voting records and decide if they are actually doing what is best for us or are they actually doing what is best for them.They can not do both and in most cases you will most likely find they did nothing in which you would agree with.

Oh yes;as the forefathers roll over in their graves they find that the system that they started has been corrupted and allowed to run a muck with people who no longer care about keeping a country great.The only concern is how much $$$ goes into their pockets and to hell with what the people want!! Well I vote we recall every SOB in there and have new elections and ones with term limits being the #1 thing to decide.There are too many carrier  politicians.The most they should be allowed is 3 terms and then bye bye.This way you keep a flow of new blood and new up to date ideas.Many of these representatives are so far out of touch they are thinking in the stone age.

As Obama himself has stated "its time for CHANGE." Lets make that change start with the politicians.It is only through this will we once again be the country we were!!

wiz
wiz

How the hell do I run for congress? Im sick of dez nig@s in Washington.

glennra3
glennra3

Is the job of being a congress person really so difficult that they can't accomplish the main task they were elected for?


I'm ready to cancel elections and just start picking congress people from a phone book.

tomsquawk
tomsquawk

sorry to disappoint, but my daughter flew in & out of "some of the biggest and busiest airports" this weekend, before and after the sequestration cuts hit. no difference. what now?

DavidBell
DavidBell

It is important to the Administration to make these minor cuts hurt the public as much as possible in order to gain support for tax increases.

PaulDirks
PaulDirks

People endlessly demanding spending cuts are suddenly shocked to discover that spending cuts result in reduced spending.

Details at 11.


EducateLePeople
EducateLePeople

@TIME And we could have fixed the issue before any of this was happening. I think this shows that you can't dismiss major issues.

bpeters10
bpeters10

@TIME "OMB employess charged with managing cuts are also furloughed." Priceless! You can't make this stuff up!

suddendepth
suddendepth

First world problems. Welcome to the reality of trying to work within your means. The Feds should have a thorough purge of dead weight in their labor base to streamline efficiency. That would be a real coup. No one cares that the federal workers are getting an unpaid vacation day/week or that travelers are experiencing delays.

lordofthefly
lordofthefly

Most Americans felt this bite about a half decade ago with the great recession. When I visited D.C. in the midst of the worst of it, there was no recession. In my company cars were often vandalized in our parking lot, but it took a hit on the boss's car for a security guard to be posted. That is the way it should work with the Feds and all us millions of little people who felt the sting of the recession. For many people, it has been a life-changer.

New_Narrative
New_Narrative

@ZekeJMiller Maybe when congressmen can't fly home on time to make their fundraisers they will finally do something about the sequester

notsacredh
notsacredh

"How the hell do I run for congress? Im sick of dez nig@s in Washington
"

Register as a republican.

Join the Tea Party.

Buy a trunkload of guns.

Insult women, minorities, the young and every non-christian.

Attack anyone with an education.

Loudly proclaim that you hate the government and anyone that works for them.

Tell anyone within shouting distance how much you love Jesus.

That'll get you through the primary. Good luck.



Paul,nnto
Paul,nnto

@PaulDirks  Heh- I heard a local know nothing rightist radio host (I understand I am being redundant) singing that song earlier today.

Giving then what they want, be it a budget or spending cuts, puts them in a tizzy. 


DavidBell
DavidBell

@bpeters10 @TIME The most telling factoid in that paragraph was the 480 people in OMB.  Cut half of them permanently, and we wouldn't miss a beat.

roknsteve
roknsteve

When you get a big hole in your street or a sink hole in your backyard they'll be no gevt. to fix it.  And we can hear you squealing from here. 

tom.litton
tom.litton

@suddendepth As detailed in this article, cutting spending doesn't inherently make the government more streamlined or efficient.  If you want more efficiency, you have to focus your efforts there first, and then cut spending when the money simply isn't needed anymore. 

If you simply cut spending, the government will simply do less, leading to a lot of head ache (or worse) for everyone.

 I just hope there isn't a serious accident due to lack of air traffic controllers.

...or the military units that won't be fully ready for deployment aren't needed.

notsacredh
notsacredh

I work for the federal government. My division got an exemption. We also have a hiring freeze. I'm getting thousands in overtime because we're shorthanded. Sometimes a sequestration doesn't work out so well.

ARTRaveler
ARTRaveler

Hopefully, the first TSA cuts were the "executive line" at Dulles and Washington National.  Let them meet the real peopled they are suopposed to represent as they stand in line.  I would suggest that they take all Congressional identification off before getting to the airport. 

curt3rd
curt3rd

Im pretty sure he votes for Democratics

manlyman
manlyman

That was quite dumb. Pretty normal coming from you tho sacred. Don't get the wrong idea tho, I'm not defending wmz217. He's an idiot.

GraemeBlakely
GraemeBlakely

@DavidBell @TIME Yes, cut half of the people at one of the most overworked management centers in the entire U.S. government. Because that makes sense.

DavidBell
DavidBell

@roknsteve I know a guy in my hometown that complained about a 3 foot pothole at the head of his driveway for 2 years.  After getting the run-around for longer than he could take, and replacing the front end on his truck, he decided to take matters into his own hands.  He spent $140 on materials and filled the hole in short order.  He next got a citation for doing unauthorized work.  The county road department didn't have enough time to fix the whole in 2 years, but they found the time to cite him.

curt3rd
curt3rd

Thats called wasteful government spending.  No wonder you voted for this guy.

AfGuy
AfGuy

@DavidBell @GraemeBlakely @TIME 

And that network of communications and weather satellites you use without thinking about it... who do you think developed THAT?