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America’s Workforce and Federal Support—Sequestration’s Impact

English: President Barack Obama signs the Budg...

English: President Barack Obama signs the Budget Control Act of 2011 in the Oval Office, Aug. 2, 2011. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As the election season comes to a close, members of Congress prepare to convene in December 2012. Unless something is done during that time, an across-the-board sequestration is set to take effect in January 2013. My employment in workforce development has forced me to learn what this means.

A little background information for those of you who, like me, keep their televisions off as much as possible:

  1. The Budget Control Act (BCA) was enacted in 2011 to increase the national debt ceiling (the upper limit we can go into debt) in exchange for more than $2 trillion in federal funding cuts over the next 10 years.
  2. The BCA law required Congress to convene a bi-partisan committee to come up with a plan to decrease the deficit by $1.5 Trillion by November 2011. Under the BCA, if that committee did not act in time, $109 billion in automatic, across-the-board cuts (“sequesters”) to both defense and non-defense discretionary (NDD) programs will automatically go into effect on January 2, 2013.
  3. A little about the federal budget: if we could divide it into pieces of a pie, roughly about 60% of that pie would go to mandatory spending or entitlements. These include Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security. More permanent Congressional appropriations fund these and are not as easy to touch as the discretionary funds, which are divided into military and non-defense discretionary funds. A nice interactive breakdown of these discretionary funds can be found here. Most of those funds go to programs for such necessities as housing, education, health care, commerce, social services… and employment. In short, everything that we do in our everyday lives would be impacted.
  4. Federal workforce development programs will be deeply impacted by these cuts. Critical employment and training programs stand to lose at least $630 million in 2013 if the sequesters go into effect.

How does that affect the workforce development system, and ultimately, the unemployed?

  1. Under sequestration, WIA Title I programs would be forced to turn away nearly 400,000 adults, youth, and dislocated workers.
  2. Adult Basic Education programs, which already have a waiting list of more than 160,000 people nationwide, would serve 66,000 fewer learners.
  3. Career and Technical Education programs, which help lower the dropout rate for at-risk youth, would serve over 1 million fewer students.
  4. Despite a persistently high unemployment rate for individuals with disabilities, the sequester would force Vocational Rehabilitation programs to serve almost 78,000 fewer disabled individuals.
  5. The Wagner-Peyser Employment Services Act, administered by the Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration and responsible for the One-Stop workforce system throughout the nation, would lose the ability to serve 1.2 million jobseekers (as a yardstick, 21 million people were served through this program in 2011; one out of every 18 jobseekers would lose out on employment services).

That’s a lot of ouches—nearly 3 million, in fact.

Distressingly enough, the economy could lose another 2.14 million jobs on top of those already lost. Unemployment could increase by as much as 1.5%, sending the national average back up over 9%.

Non-defensive discretionary programs are not the reason for the growing debt. In fact, even completely eliminating all NDD programs would not even come close to balancing the budget. Sequestration would have all the healing effect to the national debt of applying a Band-aid to an amputation.

The National Skills Coalition has joined with nearly 3,000 other national organizations in an effort to urge policymakers to adopt a “balanced approach to deficit reduction that does not include further cuts to [non-defense discretionary] programs.”

If you want to do more, here are a few ideas I found online (I am not affiliated these; I only found them online as I was doing research).

  • Join the conversation on Twitter at #NDDUnited.
  • Grassroots Toolkit can be found at the Coalition for Health Funding website.


  1. Congress Has Cut Discretionary Funding By $1.5 Trillion Over Ten Years by Richard Kogan, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, September, 2012. http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=3840
  2. Interactive: What is Non-Defense Discretionary Spending? By Michael Linden and Michael Ettinger, Center for American Progress, March 24, 2010. http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/budget/news/2010/03/24/7453/interactive-what-is-non-defense-discretionary-spending/
  3. Disinvesting in the Skills of America’s Workforce: The Potential Impact of Sequestration on Key Federal Employment and Training Programs. National Skills Coalition, August 2012. http://www.nationalskillscoalition.org/assets/reports-/nsc_sequestration-issue.pdf
  4. The Economic Impact of the Budget Control Act of 2011 on DOD and Non-DOD Agencies, by Stephen S. Fuller, Ph.D., George Mason University, July 17, 2012. http://www.aia-aerospace.org/assets/Fuller_II_Final_Report.pdf
  5. Letter to Congress from National Skills Coalition, dated 12 July 2012. http://www.nationalskillscoalition.org/federal-policies/misc-documents/nddjuly2012-final.pdf
  6. United States Federal Budget, from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_federal_budget




About kimberlyjmyers

I am a workforce development professional in Washington State. I have ten years experience working with dislocated workers, vocationally impaired, and people with disabilities on many levels and backgrounds from offenders to non-English speaking refugees from around the world. The One thing the clients I have worked with all had in common: there was some barrier to employment, and I work diligently every day to identify, address and remove those barriers.


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