White House: Sequester ‘Deeply Destructive’ to Defense

In response to a demand from Congress, President Obama on Friday released a 394-page list of federal programs that would be cut if lawmakers fail to reach a deficit reduction deal and sequestration, or automatic cuts, is enacted.

Few government programs would be spared under sequestration, the report said, but the Pentagon budget would take the biggest hit. Thousands of government workers would be laid off, from FBI agents to air traffic controllers.

The Navy’s shipbuilding budget would be cut by $2.1 billion under sequestration, the White House report said. That could slow Electric Boat’s production of Virginia class submarines for the Navy.

In all, the $50 billion to $60 billion that would be taken from the Pentagon’s budget next year would cost  hundreds of defense-related jobs in Connecticut. Anticipating the possibility of deep cuts, some defense contractors are ready to send out pink slips in November.

Sequestration would also mean a $543 million cut to the food stamp program, a $5 million reduction in federal heating assistance and a 2 percent cut for hospitals and doctors who treat Medicare patients.

“The report leaves no question that the sequestration would be deeply destructive to national security, domestic investments and core government functions,” a senior White House official said.

Congress agreed to the automatic cuts last year as part of a budget deal that allowed for a rise in the debt ceiling, a cap on the amount of money the federal government can borrow.

But sequestration can be avoided if lawmakers agree on about $1 trillion in cuts over 10 years.

Republicans say Democrats have little interest in avoiding sequestration because they won’t agree to budget cuts that focus only on domestic programs and spare defense.

Democrats say Republicans are backing out of the deal because they won’t consider across-the-board cuts that include defense. Democrats also want to offset some of the cuts with new revenues from an end to some tax breaks for wealthier Americans.

“When the rubber hits the road they are backing out of a deal they made,” the senior White House official said.