Budget cuts caused just one federal employee layoff in 2013

The $85.3 billion in budget cuts passed by Congress in 2011 resulted in just one layoff in the entire federal government.

That surprising fact comes from a single footnote on page 51 of a 224-page Government Accountability Office report, "2013 Sequestration: Agencies Reduced Some Services and Investments, While Taking Certain Actions to Mitigate Effects:"

(Department of Justice) officials reported that one DOJ component — the U.S. Parole Commission — implemented a reduction in force of one employee to achieve partial savings required by sequestration in fiscal year 2013.

The report was released in March, and the footnote went largely unnoticed until Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., sent a letter to the Office of Management and Budget Wednesday asking why the Obama Administration didn't do more to reduce the federal workforce.

Coburn said the lack of widespread layoffs was good news for federal employees, but "devastating to the credibility of Washington politicians and administration officials who spent months – and millions of dollars – engaging in a coordinated multi-agency cabinet-level public relations campaign to scare the American people."

The budget cuts, known as "sequestration," did have an impact on federal employees. The Defense Department, for example, furloughed 640,500 civilian employees for six days last year in an effort to save $1.2 billion. All but two major agencies canceled or limited employee bonuses or travel, and most were slower to replace employees who left, the GAO report said. Federal contractors also laid off thousands of employees.

The report also concluded that the government actually lost billions through budget cuts because the Internal Revenue Service wasn't able to review as many tax returns. "Many of the effects of sequestration will not be known until future years, if at all," the report said.

The GAO recommended that the administration be more transparent in explaining how it implements the budget cuts.


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