ISHN Guest BlogNote:  The comments are the author’s views and do not reflect the association’s positions or policies.

It’s my sense that sequestration will happen, and that it will last for about two months.  After that period, the pain for Congress and the impacted public – defense and non-defense alike - will be too great.  Just a few examples of the non-defense side are job corps cut backs, public health clinics that must close one or two days per week, head start teachers who are paid only to teach for three days per week putting parents in financial and logistical bind, and Justice Department grant programs for community policing programs.   

Federal health and safety investments might get two lines in a national story on the sequester. 

Senate Democrats are making a late, last minute pitch for a deal to avert sequestration, but no one in Washington seems to think it can get to the President’s desk by March 1.

After about two months of the spending cut backs, it’s foreseeable that Congress will cancel the sequester for a few months while it tries to figure out a spending plan, or just cancel the sequester all together. Two months of sequestration will allow Members of Congress, including Tea Party GOPs and conservative Democrats to take credit for nearly $24 billion in federal spending. (With seven months left in the FY13 fiscal year and $85 billion in cuts, two months of this is about $24 billion).

ISEA’s board of trustees told key congressional appropriations staff members that OSHA’s enforcement budget should be exempt from sequestration.

Even if sequestration last for only two months or so, I can foresee federal worker furloughs in the summer months as an additional federal cost savings measure, or as part of a deal to end the sequester. Each agency is dealing with furloughs differently.

As for OSHA, sequestration might be more of a DOL issue, which has been particularly mum on this issue. The DOL budget office would have to decide how to affect the savings. 

For example, one of the many DOL agencies is the Veterans Employment and Training Services (VETS). If DOL is able to send the VETS agency to the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), DOL could claim it as a cost savings and the VA might be able to claim that it will, in the long run, affect cost-savingsthrough economies of scale by bringing this and other veterans-related programs under one roof.

If OSHA has to come up with its share of the required cost savings the easiest way to meet the targets would be furloughs – especially if HQ staff rather than compliance safety and health offices (the enforcement staff in the field). 

ISEA’s board of trustees told key congressional appropriations staff members that OSHA’s enforcement budget should be exempt from sequestration.  While OSHA has been making critical investments in consultations, most would agree that enforcement is where the rubber meets the road for OSHA. 

I can imagine OSHA staff travel would be cut. 

Any OSHA project that demands a consultant might get nixed, along with the consultants. 

Would all that add up to $25 million – the 5% of current spending that must be cut?  We will all have to watch and wait. 

FY14 – For many domestic agencies, FY14 might look similar to their budgets under sequestration.  And FY13 – many agree that a year-along “continuing resolution” is in the works, which will keep agencies at their FY12 funding levels, minus sequestration.