Mandatory, indiscriminant sequestration budget cuts threaten to undermine national security, harm vital government programs and services and damage the economy. Over a nine year period, sequestration will cut defense by roughly $500 billion and non-defense discretionary programs by roughly the same amount. Among these programs are FAA’s operation of the national air transportation systems, NASA’s space exploration activities and NOAA’s weather satellite program.

These automatic, across-the-board, spending cuts of $1 trillion from discretionary spending are required under the Budget Control Act of 2011 due to the failure of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to agree on $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction in 2011. Defense budgets were dually hit by the Budget Control Act as the first round of cuts prior to sequestration cut $487 billion over ten years. This is in addition to the nearly half a trillion in additional cuts that are required in the second round of cuts – known as sequestration.  The total cut to discretionary funding under sequestration is nearly one trillion dollars with half cutting defense and the other half applying against domestic discretionary accounts such as the budgets of FAA, NASA and NOAA. Mandatory spending (i.e. entitlement spending for Social Security and Medicare) is largely unaffected.

Key Issues