Sequestration Cuts’ Impact on Statistical Agencies

Steve PiersonThis blog post is provided by Steve Pierson of the American Statistical Association. Steve found three letters from statistical agencies that indicate the impact of the so-called sequestration cuts on these agencies.

In response to a request from Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (MD-D), federal agencies have sent letters to Mikulski on how sequestration would affect them. The letters are posted on the Senate Appropriations Commitee website and contain sequestration impacts for the Census Bureau, BLS and NASS. The other agency letters do not go to a level of detail to include the impacts on other federal statistical agencies (BEA, BJS, BTS, EIA. ERS, NCES, NCHS, NCSES, IRS SOI, SSA ORES).

In the letter from the Commerce Department, the following impacts for the Census Bureau are listed:

Sequestration would have to cut a total of $46 million from the Department’s Census Bureau. The Census Bureau will be forced to significantly cut contract dollars and not fill hundreds of vacancies, pushing back research and testing for the 2020 Decennial Census as well as seriously delaying the release of critical economic and demographic data needed for this calendar year.

The last benchmark of economic statistics supporting America’s assessment of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and other key economic indicators was taken in 2007, prior to the recession. If the sequestration cuts move forward, the Census Bureau will be ready to make major departures from past operational designs that are intended to save money without diminishing quality. The Census Bureau has committed to executing a Census that would cost less per household in real dollars. Cuts now are virtually guaranteed to force the Census Bureau to ask for larger investments later, putting at risk that goal of achieving more significant forced to impose a six-month delay in releasing vital statistics for these indicators, putting at risk our ability to take accurate stock of current economic conditions and well-being and potentially impacting policy making and economic decisions in the private sector.

Furthermore, delays in developmental work for the 2020 Decennial Census will increase the risk that the Census Bureau will not be ready to make major departures from past operational designs that are intended to save money without diminishing quality. The Census Bureau has committed to executing a Census that would cost less per household in real dollars. Cuts now are virtually guaranteed to force the Census Bureau to ask for larger investments later, putting at risk that goal of achieving more significant savings.

In the letter from the Department of Agriculture, the section on the National Agricultural Statistical Service states that sequestration would stop FY13 scheduled activities for the Census of Agriculture including data processing. The letter goes on to say that data will be incomplete and not statistically sound for publication, which will “negatively affect decisions made by farmers, business and governments and ultimately will bring volatility to food markets and impact prices consumers pay.”

The Department of Labor letter states, “With millions in reductions, BLS would have to eliminate or reduce some of its programs.”

Presumably what is presented above for these three agency is paraphrased from much more substantive documents presented by Census, BLS and NASS to their respective departments.

Given the impacts of sequestration to the federal statistical agencies (and NSF and NIH), the ASA continues to urge its members to head the call late last year of 2012 President Bob Rodriguez: ASA President Asks ASA Members to Help Avoid Steep Cuts to NSF, NIH, and Federal Statistical Agencies.

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One response to “Sequestration Cuts’ Impact on Statistical Agencies

  1. This Is just what I wanted!