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Thursday, April 04, 2013

OMB clarifies agency authorities for implementing sequestration cuts

The Office of Management and Budget has directed agencies to take full advantage of the funding flexibilities they have under the law as they implement the automatic budget cuts, known as sequestration, that went into effect March 1.

In an April 4 memo, OMB Controller Danny Werfel also directed agency and department leaders to be mindful of certain types of performance awards and to work with agency inspectors general before making cuts to IG offices.

Many agencies' hands are tied when it comes to implementing the cuts because of their across-the-board nature.

"However, depending on an agency's account structure and any existing flexibilities provided by law, some agencies may have a limited ability to realign funds to protect mission priorities," Werfel wrote.

In fact, the 2013 appropriations bill passed by Congress last month blunted some of the impact of the cuts by shifting funding priorities and, in some cases, granting new increases.

"Agencies with reprogramming or transfer authority should continue to examine whether the use of these authorities would allow the agency to minimize the negative impact of sequestration on core mission priorities," Werfel wrote in the memo.

He told agencies to consider long-term mission goals when making decisions about how to implement the cuts.

The memo reiterated that funding for agencies' independent inspector general offices is subject to sequestration.

"To the extent an agency has discretion in implementing reductions to IG funding due to sequestration, agency heads should be mindful of the independence of the Office of Inspector General and should consult with the IG on a pre-decisional basis on matters that may impact IG funding," the memo stated.

In fact, in cases where IG funding is its own budget line-item (and not "intermingled" with other types of funding), the IGs themselves should be granted the discretion to implement the cuts, Werfel said.

Werfel said the administration continues to urge Congress to eliminate sequestration "as part of a balanced agreement on deficit reduction."

- Jack Moore, FederalNewsRadio.com

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