OMB to begin planning for sequestration

Tuesday - 7/31/2012, 6:20pm EDT

Faced with congressional inaction in averting looming across-the-board cuts that take effect in January, the Office of Management and Budget will begin meeting with agency leaders to discuss how the cuts will be implemented.

In a memo to agency heads, Acting OMB Director Jeff Zients said his office will consult with agencies to determine which budget accounts and programs are exempt from sequestration.

While the planning will "divert scarce resources from other important agency activities and priorities," Zients wrote in the memo, it is necessary because Congress has not yet made progress in avoiding the cuts.

Further out, if Congress has still not reached a deal, OMB would work with agencies to discuss how sequestration would be implemented.

Despite these initial steps, Zients said agencies "should continue normal spending and operations since more than five months remain for Congress to act."

Repeated calls for more details

So far, information about which programs are exempt from the cuts has trickled out amid calls for more definitive answers from the White House.

OMB has already said programs administered by the Veterans Affairs Department will be protected from sequestration. However, war funding — contained in the overseas contingency operations budget — will not.

Last week, Congress approved the Sequestration Transparency Act, which requires the President to provide a detailed report to Congress on how sequestration will be applied.

OMB has not said if the President plans to sign the bill. The administration has maintained the cuts would be damaging and that Congress should work to avoid them.

Zients will appear before the House Armed Services Committee Tuesday to answer questions about the administration's preparation for sequestration.

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