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Clock Ticks Down Towards Sequestration
By Andrew Goldberg, Managing Director, Government Relations & Outreach

    Almost nobody in Washington wants it to happen. Nearly everyone says they are committed to finding a way to avoid it. And yet, the first round of sequestration – an automatic $85 billion cut in federal programs – seems increasingly likely to happen at the end of this month.

    Sequestration was put in place in 2011 as a way of getting Congress and the President to agree on a long-term budget deficit plan; the idea was that the cuts – totaling $1.2 trillion over nine years, coming equally from defense and non-defense programs – were so extreme that the threat of sequester would be enough to force the parties to come up with a plan.

    So far, they haven’t. Although the fiscal cliff deal inked in early January delayed the first round of sequester until March 1, there is growing pessimism that a further delay would happen.

    According to an AIA analysis released in October, the sequestration could reduce federal spending on design and construction by more than $2 billion, with potential job losses in the industry of up to 60,000 and higher costs to taxpayers in the long run due to deferred maintenance. The magnitude of the tax increases and spending cuts and their impact on architects is why 2012 AIA president Jeffery Potter, FAIA, wrote to the President and Congress in December urging them to find a solution to the fiscal cliff crisis that does not disproportionately hurt the design and construction industry.

    Both President Obama and Congressional Republicans have expressed hope that they can find a way to forestall the sequester – but they still cannot agree to how. The President has proposed a mix of spending cuts and tax increases, while Congressional Republicans have called for a long-term plan that reforms the tax code, and reduces spending on entitlements and other programs.

    Meanwhile, agencies are preparing for the possible cuts by delaying some projects and canceling others; the Defense Department has even canceled the deployment of an aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf due to, it says, uncertainty over sequestration.

    The AIA is continuing to educate policymakers about the impacts of sequestration on the still-struggling design and construction industry.

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