After months of foot-dragging, the White House finally announced how it would implement the mandatory spending cuts to defense and domestic spending Republicans and Democrats agreed to last year, but that no one — not Congressional Democrats, Republicans, or the White House — wants to see go in effect. But everyone is stuck with them because Congress couldn't find a solution to last year's debt limit fiasco other than to saddle Uncle Sam with $1.2 trillion across-the-board cuts unless they agreed to a different plan. There's no agreement in sight, so the bad thing that was supposed to be an incentive for both sides to make a bargain is closer to becoming a real thing. Making clear it does not support the proposed cuts, the White House said today its own report "leaves no question that the sequestration would be deeply destructive to national security, domestic investments and core government functions." The only hope now is for Congress to pass new legislation before the cuts go into effect on January 1, 2013, which is still possible but, at the moment, does not look likely. Barring a bargain, these cuts will be real, so we've rounded up the most painful ones. Keep in mind, the plan is 394 pages long, so there's a lot to not like.
Slashing funding for embassy security. Out of the stack of papers, BuzzFeed's Rebecca Berg uncovered this little nugget.
United States embassies could see funding for security, maintenance and construction sliced by roughly $129 million if massive defense cuts are allowed to take effect at the end of the year.
The report ... also estimates that another $2 million would be cut from funding for the protection of embassy officials.
That's a tough and controversial pill to swallow as U.S. embassies come under fire across the globe following the release of an anti-Islam U.S. YouTube video. But there's more.
- Controlling loose nukes. Here's a cut highlighted by Wired's Spencer Ackerman: "Stopping loose nukes under the Combined Threat Reduction Program." That program would lose $65 million per year for a decade under this plan.
- De-funding Afghan security forces. It's pretty important to have this cash to ensure a stable withdrawal from this never-ending war, but the sequestration plan calls for $1.325 billion reduction every year for a decade from the program. A potential loophole here is a stipulation pointed out by National Journal: "the report states that the Defense Department would be able to shift funds as necessary to make sure the country’s 'war-fighting and critical military readiness capabilities were not degraded.'"
- Defunding weapons procurement and shipbuilding. One of the groups that was spared in this sequestration plan was veterans: Their benefits plans are exempt from deep cuts, as the Marine Corps Times reports: "Veterans’ disability and education benefits, health care and counseling are all exempt from sequestration." However, for every winner there's a loser. As National Journal notes: "To make up for the exemption of military personnel accounts, other Pentagon budget accounts would be cut deeper—including, for example, spending for weapons procurement and shipbuilding."
- Medicare and science grants. On the domestic spending front, Politico's Austin Wright and Jonathan Allen point out a couple big losers: "Medicare would get hit with a 2 percent cut, while domestic discretionary programs — such as scientific grants and Education Department programs — would be subject to 8.2 percent cuts. Most mandatory domestic programs — those that are funded based on eligibility — would be slashed by 7.6 percent," they write.