Automatic spending cuts that took effect Friday are expected to touch a vast range of government services. Some examples:
One of the Navy’s premier warships, the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman, sits pier-side in Norfolk, Va., its deployment to the Persian Gulf delayed. The carrier and its 5,000-person crew were to leave Feb. 8, along with the guided-missile cruiser USS Gettysburg. The Navy also began plans to gradually shut down four of its air wings — which include 50 to 60 aircraft each and are assigned to the carriers — and delay and cancel the deployments of several other ships.
Furlough notices will begin going out later this month to about 800,000 defense department civilians, who will lose a day’s pay each week for more than five months. The Army will let go more than 3,000 temporary and contract employees and beginning in April, it will cancel maintenance at depots which will force 5,000 more layoffs. The Air Force Thunderbirds and the Navy’s Blue Angels will cancel air show appearances.
Veterans’ funerals at Arlington National Cemetery could be cut to 24 a day from 31, meaning delays in burials for troops from past wars. Troops killed in action in Afghanistan will be the priority — they are usually laid to rest within two weeks, Army spokesman George Wright said. But overall funerals would be reduced by about 160 a month because of furloughs among civilian employees who work with families to schedule services as well as furloughs among crews that dig the graves and do other grounds work.
Pentagon investments in countering cyberthreats and nuclear proliferation will be at risk, says Michael Vickers, the undersecretary of defense for intelligence. And the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, says the agency could be hit hard because it depends heavily on military and civilian personnel to accomplish its mission.
Coast Guard rescue aircraft will fly fewer hours and cutters will patrol the seas for fewer hours, says Commandant Adm. Robert J. Papp. Emergencies will be a priority and interdictions of illegal immigrants, drugs and illegal fishing could decline.
Hundreds of illegal immigrants have been freed from jail across the country. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials say they had reviewed several hundred cases of immigrants and decided to put them on an ‘‘appropriate, more cost-effective form of supervised release’’ in a move started Tuesday.
There could be an estimated 2,100 fewer food safety inspections and increased risks to consumers because of the cuts and the fact that lack of a new 2013 budget means the Food and Drug Administration is held at last year’s spending level. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret Hamburg says most of the effects wouldn’t be felt for a while, and the agency won’t have to furlough workers.
Hospitals, doctors and other Medicare providers will see a 2 percent cut in government reimbursements because once the cutback takes effect, Medicare will reimburse them at 98 cents on the dollar. But they aren’t complaining because the pain could be a lot worse if President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans actually did reach a sweeping agreement to reduce federal deficits. Automatic cuts taking effect Friday would reduce Medicare spending by about $100 billion over a decade. But Obama had put on the table $400 billion in health care cuts, mainly from Medicare. And Republicans wanted more.
On the other hand, Obama’s health overhaul law is expected to roll out on time and largely unscathed by the cuts. Part of the reason is that the law’s major subsidies to help uninsured people buy private health coverage are structured as tax credits. So is the Affordable Care Act’s assistance for small businesses. Tax credits have traditionally been exempted from automatic cuts.
The nation’s busiest airports could be forced to close some of their runways, causing widespread flight delays and cancellations. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood predicts flights to cities like New York, Chicago and San Francisco could have delays of up to 90 minutes during peak hours because fewer controllers will be on duty.
Though the spending cuts are scheduled to go into effect on Friday, furloughs of controllers won’t kick in until April because the Federal Aviation Administration is required by law to give its employees advance notice. In addition to furloughs, the FAA is planning to eliminate midnight shifts for air traffic controllers at 60 airport towers, close over 100 control towers at smaller airports and reduce preventative maintenance of equipment.Continued...