How quickly will we feel it?
It depends. At first, the general public may not much notice the cuts. The sequester isn’t a government shutdown; it’s a government slowdown. Furloughs of federal workers — forced unpaid days off — generally won’t start for a month due to notification requirements. Many government contracts would still be funded using money previously approved even as agencies slow down the awards of new contracts. But furloughs of workers like air traffic controllers, meat inspectors, FBI agents, the Border Patrol and park rangers will mean an inevitable deterioration of noticeable government services that could, for instance, force intermittent closures of meat packing plants and shorter operating hours at smaller airports.
Other impacts will be more subtle, like longer waits at security checkpoints at airports and along the Mexican border or for cargo inspections at ports. Cuts inside the Defense Department will be particularly acute, in part because military pay is exempt, which will force sharper cuts on the rest of the budget, particularly training and maintenance. Civilian Pentagon workers will face furloughs of 22 days through the end of September. Basically, if you work for the government or do business with it, you’ll be hardest hit.