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What Sequestration Means for Americans and the World


Now that the bipartisan congressional "supercommittee" has failed to agree on a plan to cut $1.2 trillion from the U.S. government's deficit, across-the-board budget cuts -- $600 billion from domestic agencies, $600 billion from the Department of Defense -- will be triggered in 2013

The automatic cuts, called sequestration, were part of the August debt agreement that created the supercommittee - and they have many policy experts concerned.

Michael O'Hanlon is a national security analyst at the Brookings Institute, a Washington policy research organization. He says he is adamantly opposed to the deep defense cuts under sequestration. “I think sequestration would be a nightmare for our national security and I hope very much that if indeed it kicks in, that it will be quickly superseded by subsequent action in 2012 so that we don’t start to see the kind of cuts that would otherwise be necessary," he said.

Some lawmakers are already pledging to find a way to avoid sequestration - by passing legislation to cancel the cuts. But the White House said last week President Obama will not accept any measure that stops the automatic cuts. Republican House Speak John Boehner also said he will oppose any legislation that prevents sequestration.

The cuts will affect not only U.S. citizens, but citizens of other nations, as agencies dealing in foreign aid, trade, immigration, and defense take the blow.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has repeated again and again his fear that cuts to the Pentagon budget will force civilian job cuts and historic reductions in ground forces.

Marianne Rowden, president and CEO of the American Association of Importers and Exporters, says automatic cuts could have a significant effect on foreign trade. She says it is not clear if the federal border control agency will be affected by the cuts. Agencies dealing with national security have been exempted from the cuts and the border agency is part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Rowden says the Food and Drug Administration could react to budget cuts on import and export regulation by charging importers and exporters user fees for regulatory services. She says sequestration is a definite possibility, with an outcome nearly universally negative.

Some experts say that people applying for visas to visit the United States, or for U.S. citizenship, would see little change. That's because the fees they pay fund the process. However, needed improvements to the system, such as shortening the waiting time for visas, may not happen.

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