However you define it sequestration has its own definition in Washington, DC. Sequestration is a requirement of the budget reconciliation process of 2011. It required that if a special bipartisan committee could not agree on about $1.2 trillion in budget cuts over 10 years, those cuts would be automatically applied on January 1, 2013, with half applied to defense programs and half to non-defense programs. Not unexpectedly, the bipartisan committee failed. Last minute legislation delayed the sequestration implementation until March 1.

In late December sequestration was viewed as abhorrent by both liberals and conservatives in Congress. However, some Democratic congressmen and congresswomen are seeing sequestration as preferable to the expected Republican proposal as outlined by Representative Paul Ryan. Rep. Ryan’s proposal is to cut government spending by $1.2 trillion without cutting defense programs or increasing taxes, thus potentially cutting government services and programs such as Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security. Democrats want the $1.2 trillion to be half from spending cuts and half from new revenues.

Other opportunities for federal spending discord include the March 27 end of the continuing resolution that keeps the government operating. Failure to pass an extension of the continuing resolution or other appropriations legislation will result in a shutdown of all non-emergency government activities. Government agencies are now planning for this shutdown.

As a result of the probable budget cuts contained in whatever legislation passes Congress, federal research and development (R&D) is already seeing significant cuts. The current continuing resolution forbids new R&D awards, and the fear of future cuts from sequestration is evidently prompting some agencies to cancel funding for ongoing R&D projects. Without expected funding, universities are having to lay off staff, who will be hard to rehire if funding is reinstated.

Last 5 posts by Edie Allison

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