OMB: No contingency plans yet for sequestration

Wednesday - 4/25/2012, 2:19pm EDT

Agencies won't get contingency plans in case of a sequestration anytime soon.

A top official at the Office of Management and Budget said it's "premature" to begin planning for the automatic, across-the-board cuts that will go into effect Jan. 2, 2013, if Congress cannot reach a deal to reduce the deficit by $1.2 trillion over the next decade.

OMB Controller Danny Werfel told the House Budget Committee that planning is "disruptive" to agency operations. It involves pulling technical experts — like chief financial officers, chief acquisition officers and budget execution experts — from their day-to-day work for the agency.

"Every asset, every individual that we pull off their current mission-critical activities and priorities to do planning for certain contingencies has a cost associated with it," Werfel said.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated sequestration would cut defense discretionary spending by 10 percent and non-defense spending by 9 percent.

Werfel emphasized the need for Congress to avoid these cuts and "get a bill to the President that he can sign."

But Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said lawmakers needed to know the impact of sequestration. At the end of the two-hour hearing, Ryan expressed his frustration with OMB's lack of details.

"So, the takeaway is you don't have a specific proposal and you're not going to tell us how it's going to be effected. It's clear as mud to us," Ryan said. "The purpose of this hearing was to try to get more clarity. I think we have even less now. The sooner you can provide us clarity, the better everyone is going to be."

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