The Office of Management and Budget can no longer ignore the signs that Congress probably isn’t going to get its act together and avert devastating sequestration cuts by the end of the year. Acting Director Jeff Zients today issued a memo to agency leaders that said OMB will start discussing how sequestration could be implemented over the next few months.
In his memo, Zients repeatedly reminds Congress that the whole point of sequestration was that it was so bad and devastating that they had no choice but to agree on a way to reduce the deficit, and prods them to act. But there are no signs that they’ll get their act together and come up with $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction by Jan. 2, 2013.
Zients said planning for sequestration “will necessarily divert scarce resources from other important agency activities and priorities,” which is presumably why agencies have not yet even begun laying the groundwork for such cuts.
Zients said that OMB will soon start talking to agencies about how exemptions will be applied, and other reporting requirements. Further down the road, OMB and agencies will start working on the details of sequestration, such as exactly how much will be cut. Those dollar figures “can only be calculated once FY 2013 funding levels are known,” Zients said.
But Zients said that “in the meantime, agencies should continue normal spending and operations since more than 5 months remain for Congress to act.” And that kind of talk always reminds me of Kevin Bacon’s final, immortal words from Animal House: