WASHINGTON, DC – With excruciating detail, the White House’s budget office on Friday laid out exactly where it will have to cut $109 billion from federal spending in January, including $11.1 billion from Medicare and $54.7 billion from defense spending.
The defense cuts include $21.5 billion from operations and maintenance for the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines and the reserves and National Guard, and nearly $1.4 billion from military aide to Afghanistan, with tens of billions coming from procurement and other Pentagon accounts.
“The report leaves no question that the sequestration would be deeply destructive to national security, domestic investments, and core government functions,” the White House’s budget office said in the report.
Everything from fencing and technology along the U.S.-Mexico border to the government’s own internal watchdogs to local environmental programs are also on the chopping block.
The cuts fall particularly heavy on the federal civilian workforce, where staffing levels and salaries would be docked more than 8 percent almost across the board.
Also facing slashes are the National Institutes of Health, which would see a $2.5 billion cut, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which would have to trim $464 million, according to the 394-page report, issued by the White House Office of Management and Budget in response to a law.
The cuts are due under the terms of last year’s debt deal, which set up the automatic “sequesters” in exchange for granting the administration the borrowing authority to go deeper into debt. Last year’s deficit super committee was supposed to come up with replacements for the sequesters, but the bipartisan committee failed, leaving the automatic cuts in place. They take effect Jan. 2.
In the report, the White House’s budget office took pains to say it didn’t have any discretion, and that it didn’t support the cuts.
“The percentage cuts in this report, and the identification of exempt and non-exempt accounts, reflect the requirements of the laws that the administration is applying,” the report said. “With the single exception of military personnel accounts, the administration cannot choose which pro- grams to exempt, or what percentage cuts to apply.”
Administration officials said the numbers are preliminary, and will be updated based on 2013 spending levels that Congress is working on this month.
While military personnel were specifically exempted, other parts of the Pentagon were not, and will see a nearly 10 percent cut. The Army is slated to lose nearly $7 billion in operations and maintenance funding, and the Navy and Air Force will lose another $4.3 billion each in operations money.
Border fencing and technology would take a $33 million hit, and salaries and staffing for the U.S. Border Patrol and U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement would also be cut.
And at a time when embassy security is under question following the recent attacks, that account would be cut by $129 million.
Meanwhile Howard University, an historically black institution in the District of Columbia, would lose $19 million.
Friday’s report was required under a law Congress passed over the summer.
The Medicare cuts are not supposed to touch beneficiaries, but rather come out of providers’ pockets instead.
Republicans and Democrats in Congress, as well as President Obama, all agreed to last year’s debt deal, though all of them say they didn’t intend for the automatic cuts to actually happen.
Now, they are pointing fingers at each other.
House Republicans have passed legislation to head off the defense cuts but cutting deeper elsewhere in the budget, but Mr. Obama and Senate Democrats have said that’s a non-starter.
They say they’d like to see tax increases instead, but they have not passed any legislation.
Speaking to reporters Friday afternoon, an administration official said congressional Republicans are being hypocritical in trying to blame the White House for the cuts.
“Now that the rubber’s hitting the road here, they are backing off of a deal they made, legislation they passed, legislation they celebrated,” said the official, who the budget office allowed to speak to reporters on condition he not be named. “The situation they find themselves in is one they put themselves in.”
On Thursday House Republicans passed a bill that would force the White House to release another report detailing how it would try to avert the automatic cuts.
“Now it’s time for President Obama and Senate Democrats to work with Republicans to avert the ‘fiscal cliff’ by stopping the tax hikes that threaten our economy and replacing the ‘sequester’ that threatens our national security,” House Speaker John A. Boehner said after the vote.