September 14, 2012 / 6:07 PM / 7 years ago

Automatic U.S. spending cuts destructive: administration

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Obama administration on Friday presented the most detailed breakdown yet of $109 billion in across-the-board spending cuts set for January 2, saying they would be “deeply destructive” to defense and non-defense programs.

An aerial view of the Pentagon building in Washington, June 15, 2005. REUTERS/Jason Reed

While adding that it was ready to work with Congress on a replacement plan, the White House said it had done its part and that it was time for lawmakers to do theirs.

The cutting, known as sequestration, “is a blunt and indiscriminate instrument” and “not the responsible way for our nation to achieve deficit reduction,” said the White House introduction to a lengthy budget document.

The itemization - millions slashed from familiar programs such as health and science research, the national parks and the Internal Revenue Service as well as the much larger categories of defense and domestic spending - is likely to raise new public concerns in the middle of the presidential and congressional races which are entering the home stretch.

Until now, the cuts had been expressed as gross percentages, difficult for all but skilled lobbyists and corporations to digest.

The spending cuts, aimed at lowering troublingly vast U.S. budget deficits, would result in a 9.4 percent cut in defense programs and an 8.2 percent reduction in an array of domestic government activities, the White House budget office said.

The budget office had been required to spell out the details of the automatic spending cuts that are due to go into effect at the end of the year unless Congress and the administration come up with an alternative.

Neither Democrats nor Republicans back the across-the-board cuts that were included in an August 2011 budget and debt limit deal but they have been unable to agree on a substitute.

In submitting the details of the automatic spending cuts, the White House used the occasion to attack Republicans in Congress for offering only “unbalanced solutions” that it said were not “realistic, fair or responsible ways” to avoid the $109 billion meat-axe approach.

This was in response to months of Republican claims that they had approved an alternative in the House of Representatives that the Democratic Senate has ignored.

“No amount of planning can mitigate the effect of these cuts,” the White House Office of Management and Budget said in the report.

The Republican alternative would cancel all of the military spending cuts while mandating deep new reductions to domestic programs, including social safety net activities that Democrats want to protect.

As a result of the failure of Congress and the administration to agree to a long-term deficit reduction package, the government is on track for $1.2 trillion in spending cuts over 10 years. Cuts due to kick in on January 2 would be the first installment.

Despite the White House offer to work with Congress on a new plan, there is no expectation any such effort would get underway until after the November 6 presidential and congressional elections.

The 394-page document, which was transmitted electronically by the White House, goes line by line through federal agency programs, applying the percentage cuts to achieve the $109 billion in savings.

Most of these programs already have come under the budget knife in previous deficit-reduction laws.

Additional reporting by Richard Cowan, Lisa Lambert and Mark Felsenthal; Editing by Fred Barbash and James Dalgleish

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