How much discretion do the agency heads have on what to cut, and when?
Not much. The cuts are supposed to apply equally to every ‘‘program, project and activity.’’ That means, for instance, that the Agriculture Department can’t take money designated for Boll Weevil research and use it to pay meat inspectors. Some lawmakers want to give agency heads greater flexibility to shift money around, but the administration says that would be of only limited help. The White House has told agencies to avoid cuts presenting ‘‘risks to life, safety or health’’ and to minimize harm to crucial services.