WASHINGTON — Government agencies are already taking steps to comply with automatic spending cuts scheduled to take effect Friday.
One of the Navy’s premiere warships, the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman, sits pier-side in Norfolk, Va., its tour of duty delayed.
The carrier and its 5,000-person crew were to leave for the Persian Gulf on Feb. 8, along with the guided-missile cruiser USS Gettysburg.
Department of Homeland Security
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 moved started Tuesday.
Other steps are planned.
U.S. Coast Guard
Coast Guard rescue aircraft will fly fewer hours and cutters will patrol the seas for fewer hours, says the service’s Commandant Adm. Robert J. Papp.
Emergencies will be a priority and interdictions of illegal immigrants, drugs and illegal fishing could decline.
Hospitals, doctors and other Medicare providers will see a 2 percent cut in government reimbursements because once 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.
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.
More than half of the nation’s 2.1 million government workers may be required to take furloughs if agencies are forced to trim budgets.
At the Pentagon alone that could mean 800,000 civilian workers would be off for 22 days each, spread across more than five months – and lose 20 percent of their pay over that period.
Other federal agencies are likely to furlough several hundred thousand more workers.
Some 70,000 students currently enrolled in pre-kindergarten Head Start would be cut from the program and 14,000 teachers would lose their jobs. For students with special needs, the cuts would eliminate some 7,200 teachers and aides. Up to 29 million student loan borrowers and some lenders may have to lay off staff or even close; some of the 15 million college students who receive grants or work-study assignments at some 6,000 colleges would also see changes.
Visiting hours at all 398 national parks are likely to be cut and sensitive areas would be blocked off to the public. Thousands of seasonal workers looking for jobs would not be hired, according to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.
Salazar and National Park Service director Jon Jarvis said visitors would encounter fewer rangers, locked restrooms and trashcans emptied less frequently.