Sequestration: How We Got Here and the Looming Cuts

Homeland Security Digital Library Blog 2013-02-16



On March 1, 2013, unless Congress takes action, sequestration's automatic, across-the-board cuts, which are evenly divided between defense and non-defense accounts, will begin to take place. There has been much debate and speculation regarding what sequestration means, and how it will affect the U.S. economy and our national security. But first, how did we get here?

The U.S. government debt ceiling was set after a statutory limit restricted total federal debt in 1917 after Congress passed the Second Liberty Bond Act. Since 2001, Congress has raised/modified the debt limit 12 times due to the increased deficit and additions to federal trust funds.

On August 2, 2011, President Obama signed into law the Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011 after the federal debt had again reached its legal limit on May 16, 2011. The BCA established a 12 member Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (the “Super Committee”) which was tasked with finding a way to reduce the deficit by $1.2-$1.5 trillion over ten years. The BCA included sequestration as a way to force the Super Committee to act. However, on November 21, 2011, the members of the bipartisan Super Committee announced its inability to reach an agreement.

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Date tagged:

02/16/2013, 15:57

Date published:

02/15/2013, 17:44