- The Washington Times - Friday, September 14, 2012

With excruciating detail, the White House’s budget office has laid out exactly where it will have to cut $109 billion from federal spending in January, including $11.1 billion from Medicare and $54.7 billion from defense spending.

The defense cuts include $21.5 billion from operations and maintenance for the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines and the reserves and National Guard, and nearly $1.4 billion from military aid to Afghanistan, with tens of billions of dollars coming from procurement and other Pentagon accounts.

“The report leaves no question that the sequestration would be deeply destructive to national security, domestic investments, and core government functions,” the White House budget office said in the report released Friday.

Also on the chopping block are various items including fencing and technology along the U.S.-Mexico border, the government’s internal watchdogs and local environmental programs.

The cuts fall particularly heavy on the federal civilian workforce, where staffing levels and salaries would be docked more than 8 percent almost across the board.

The National Institutes of Health would face cuts of $2.5 billion, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would have to trim $464 million, according to the 394-page report, issued by the White House Office of Management and Budget.

The cuts are set up by the terms of last year’s debt deal, which requires the automatic “sequesters” in exchange for granting the administration the borrowing authority to go deeper into debt. The bipartisan deficit supercommittee was supposed to come up with replacements for the sequesters, but left the automatic cuts in place. They are due to take effect Jan. 2.

The White House budget office took pains to say that it didn’t have any discretion and didn’t support the cuts.

“The percentage cuts in this report, and the identification of exempt and non-exempt accounts, reflect the requirements of the laws that the administration is applying,” the report said. “With the single exception of military personnel accounts, the administration cannot choose which programs to exempt, or what percentage cuts to apply.”

Administration officials said the numbers are preliminary and will be updated based on 2013 spending levels that Congress is addressing this month.

While military personnel were specifically exempted, other parts of the Pentagon will have to cut nearly 10 percent. The Army is slated to lose nearly $7 billion in operations and maintenance funding, and the Navy and Air Force will lose $4.3 billion each in operations money.

Border fencing and technology would take a $33 million hit, and salaries and staffing for the U.S. Border Patrol and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement also would be cut.

At a time when embassy security is a concern in the aftermath of attacks, that account would be cut by $129 million.

Howard University, a historically black institution in the District, would lose $19 million.

The report was required under a law that Congress enacted during the summer.

The Medicare cuts are not supposed to touch beneficiaries, but rather come out of providers’ pockets.

Republicans and Democrats in Congress, as well as President Obama, agreed to the debt deal last year, though all of them say they didn’t intend for the automatic cuts to happen.

Now, they are pointing fingers.

House Republicans have passed legislation to head off the defense reductions by finding deeper cuts elsewhere, but Mr. Obama and Senate Democrats have said that is a non-starter.

They say they would like tax increases instead but have not passed any legislation.

Speaking to reporters Friday afternoon, an administration official said congressional Republicans are being hypocritical by trying to blame the White House for the cuts.

“Now that the rubber’s hitting the road here, they are backing off of a deal they made, legislation they passed, legislation they celebrated,” said the official, whom the budget office allowed to speak to reporters on the condition that he not be named. “The situation they find themselves in is one they put themselves in.”

On Thursday, House Republicans passed a bill that would force the White House to release another report detailing how it would try to avert the automatic cuts.

“Now it’s time for President Obama and Senate Democrats to work with Republicans to avert the ‘fiscal cliff’ by stopping the tax hikes that threaten our economy and replacing the sequester that threatens our national security,” House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, said after the vote.