A series of automatic funding cuts will automatically kick in beginning on Friday, March 1st if Congress fails to come to an agreement regarding the deficit, or “Fiscal Cliff”. Many of these cuts, collectively known as the “Sequester” or “Sequestration”, directly affect the Educational and Military systems both nationwide and here in Mississippi. This deal was originally brokered by the White House and Congress in 2011, supposedly as a way to force Congress to come to a compromise on the deficit by offering an alternative that was even worse than having a high deficit – namely, Sequestration.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced Wednesday that nearly 800,000 civilian workers on military posts would begin working a four-day work week for as many as 22 weeks if this comes to pass. Letters attributed to Panetta quoted him as saying that, “In the event of sequestration we will do everything we can to be able to continue to perform our core mission of providing security of the United States, but there is no mistaking that the rigid nature of the cuts forced upon this department, and their scale, will result in a serious erosion of readiness across the force.” In another, he reportedly said that military bases nationwide, including the Pentagon, would have to begin furloughing large numbers of civilian personnel.
Columbus Air Force Base Colonel Jim Sears held a press conference in order to discuss the ramifications of Sequestration from a local perspective. He said that “[we] are deeply, deeply, concerned about the negative effects of furloughs on the morale and effectiveness of our valued civilian work force . . . according to CAFB officials, only 472 employees [out of 1,127] are ‘appropriated civil service’ and are currently the only ones that will be affected by the furlough.”
He also stated that “The Department of Defense expects to receive $46 billion less in non-exempt budget accounts through the remainder of Fiscal Year 2013. An unfortunate part of reducing our rate of spending will be unpaid furloughs within our appropriated fund civilian workforce . . . “Our civilian workforce at Columbus Air Force Base is critical to our mission of producing nearly one third of the pilots for the United States Air Force, advancing the personal and professional lives of our airmen and feeding the fight through deploying over 10 percent of our uniformed airmen and taking care of their families. They hold critical support positions throughout the wing and are integral to our pilot training mission as academic and simulator instructors and air traffic controllers . . . None of the planning we’re doing is irreversible,” he said. “There are no permanent cuts expected.”
Potential Sequestration Effects on Mississippi for 2013
• Teachers and Schools: Mississippi will lose approximately $5,486,000 in funding for primary and secondary education, putting around 80 teacher and aide jobs at risk. In addition about 12,000 fewer students would be served and approximately 20 fewer schools would receive funding.
• Education for Children with Disabilities: In addition, Mississippi will lose approximately $6,124,000 in funds for about 70 teachers, aides, and staff who help children with disabilities.
• Work-Study Jobs: Around 510 fewer low income students in Mississippi would receive aid to help them finance the costs of college and around 150 fewer students will get work-study jobs that help them pay for college.
• Head Start: Head Start and Early Head Start services would be eliminated for approximately 1,600 children in Mississippi, reducing access to critical early education.
• Protections for Clean Air and Clean Water: Mississippi would lose about $1,758,000 in environmental funding to ensure clean water and air quality, as well as prevent pollution from pesticides and hazardous waste. In addition, Mississippi could lose another $606,000 in grants for fish and wildlife protection.
• Military Readiness: In Mississippi, approximately 9,000 civilian Department of Defense employees would be furloughed, reducing gross pay by around $49.9 million in total.
• Army: Base operation funding would be cut by about $2.8 million in Mississippi.
Air Force: Funding for Air Force operations in Mississippi would be cut by about $4 million.
• Navy: Deferred procurement for ships, and a planned demolition project at Naval Air Station Meridian could be canceled
• Law Enforcement and Public Safety Funds for Crime Prevention and Prosecution:
• Mississippi will lose about $138,000 in Justice Assistance Grants that support law enforcement, prosecution and courts, crime prevention and education, corrections and community corrections, drug treatment and enforcement, and crime victim and witness initiatives.
• Job Search Assistance to Help those in Mississippi find Employment and Training: Mississippi will lose about $350,000 in funding for job search assistance, referral, and placement, meaning around 11,880 fewer people will get the help and skills they need to find employment.
• Child Care: Up to 400 disadvantaged and vulnerable children could lose access to child care, which is also essential for working parents to hold down a job.
• Vaccines for Children: In Mississippi around 1,170 fewer children will receive vaccines for diseases such as measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus, whooping cough, influenza, and Hepatitis B due to reduced funding for vaccinations of about $80,000.
• Public Health: Mississippi will lose approximately $283,000 in funds to help upgrade its ability to respond to public health threats including infectious diseases, natural disasters, and biological, chemical, nuclear, and radiological events. In addition, Mississippi will lose about $710,000 in grants to help prevent and treat substance abuse, resulting in around 900 fewer admissions to substance abuse programs. And the Mississippi State Department of Health will lose about $141,000 resulting in around 3,500 fewer HIV tests.
• STOP Violence Against Women Program: Mississippi could lose up to $63,000 in funds that provide services to victims of domestic violence, resulting in up to 200 fewer victims being served.
• Nutrition Assistance for Seniors: Mississippi would lose approximately $182,000 in funds that provide meals for seniors.