The Trump administration’s proposed budget cuts leave the fates of hundreds of programs and even entire agencies hanging in the balance next year, but agencies could face severe cutbacks more immediately.
The White House suggested an additional $18 billion in reductions to non-defense discretionary spending for the rest of fiscal 2017 in a supplemental request to House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis. Both the departments of Defense and Homeland Security would be exempt from the cuts. With agencies operating under a continuing resolution through late April, they would likely have just five months to implement the cuts -- or less time if Congress passes another short-term stopgap measure before addressing Trump’s proposal.
Budget experts cautioned that such significant spending reductions on that type of tightened timeframe could trigger agencies to send employees home without pay, much like they were forced to do when sequestration kicked in after Congress failed to reach a budget deal in 2013.
The Trump administration, in fact, appears to be gearing up for that possibility. In updated guidance dated March 2017, the Office of Personnel Management issued clarification for agencies on the procedures for implementing administrative furloughs. The guidance was last updated in June 2013. OPM maintains separate guidance for furloughs required by a government shutdown.
OPM also issued new guidance on possible reductions in force, titled “Workforce Reshaping Operations Handbook.” The agency put forward the new manual to “provide assistance to agencies that are considering and/or undergoing some times of reshaping (e.g. reorganization, management directed reassignments, furlough, transfer of function, reduction in force.)” The guidance details layoff procedures under federal law and regulations. An OPM spokesman said the updates were intended to "consolidate existing tools and guidance that agencies can use" rather than to issue new policy.
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