Sequestration refers to automatic federal spending cuts governed by the Budget Control Act of 2011 that went into effect with passage of the FY13 appropriations bills. These across the board cuts were designed to impact defense and non-defense discretionary spending equally. Non-defense discretionary spending, including the justice assistance programs, was cut by 5 percent from the level passed in the FY13 bills.

NCJA has been active in a large coalition of stakeholder organizations with interest in the discretionary (rather than the entitlement) portion of the budget, including health, education, environment, foreign aid, anti-poverty programs, science, research, and many other policy areas. These groups came together to educate Congress about the magnitude of the cuts already taken from discretionary spending in the FY11 and FY12 funding cycles and the impact of future cuts. The FY13 appropriations cycle was completed when Congress passed an omnibus spending bill on March 26, 2013, a day before the last continuing resolution was set to expire. That omnibus bill was a continuing resolution extending funding at FY12 levels for nine of the 12 appropriations bills. Three of the bills were pre-conferenced and added to the bill, including the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies (CJS) bill which has jurisdiction over Department of Justice grant funding. The Budget Control Act set out limits on federal spending through FY2021 so, unless amended or repealed by Congress, the sequester force a reduction in funding by equivalent amounts every year through FY21. However, in FY13, the sequester cut equally across all programs and projects. In FY14 through FY21, the law forces a reduction in the overall cap on discretionary spending, leaving it to appropriators to allocate the lower resources across the 12 appropriations bills and all programs and projects. This puts the justice assistance grants in competition with other functions of the agency. Also, a second “fiscal cliff” is looming when the federal debt ceiling needs again to be raised, sometime in the autumn.

Impact on the States

On February 25, the White House released a series of fact sheets highlighting how sequestration will impact all 50 states and the District of Columbia. NCJA has gathered this information into a document looking at the impact on Law Enforcement and Public Safety Funds for Crime Prevention and Prosecution and the STOP Violence Against Women Program.

Click here to read about sequestration's impact on the states.

NCJA/VERA Institute Survey on Impact of Reduction in Federal Funding

NCJA, in partnership with the Vera Institute of Justice, conducted its second annual survey in the summer of 2013 to better understand the impact to the field of cuts to the federal justice assistance grant programs enacted since FY10. A total of 1,226 organizations responded to the survey, the majority representing state and local criminal justice system agencies.

More than three- quarters (78 percent) of respondents reported that their grant funding has decreased since FY10. Almost half (43 percent) of reported cuts were between 11 and 25 percent with another 17 percent reporting cuts from 26 percent to 50 percent. In addition, two-thirds (66 percent) of all respondents reported a reduction in their organization’s workforce. Two-thirds also reported having to curtail the services they provide in their communities. Respondents also reported instituting hiring and salary freezes and employee furloughs.

Respondents also were asked to put into words how this withdrawal of federal support has affected their ability to serve their communities. Many of theirs answers describe in vivid language how cuts in one area ripple through the entire criminal justice system.

Click below for the 2012 and 2013 reports on the survey, and the 2013 Vera press release.

Survey Reports

2013 NCJA/Vera Report on Impact of Federal Funding Cuts
2012 NCJA/Vera Report on Impact of Federal Funding Cuts

Press Release

Vera Press Release for the 2013 Survey Report

Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Sign-On Letter to Congress

The law enforcement and prosecution community was invited to sign onto a letter to Congress urging that a future deficit reduction deal not rely on additional cuts to non-defense discretionary spending, particularly the DOJ justice assistance grant programs. View the law enforcement and prosecution's sequestration sign-on letter with signatures here.

The broad criminal justice and public safety community was invited to sign onto a letter to Congress urging that any deficit reduction plan be balanced and not include further cuts to non-defense discretionary spending, particularly the DOJ justice assistance grant programs. View the criminal justice and public safety community's sequestration sign-on letter with signatures here.

NCJA/VERA Institute Sequestration Webinar

On November 9, 2012, NCJA and the Vera Institute hosted a webinar entitled, Sequestration 101: What it is and What it Means for Future Funding. Participants heard from experts about sequestration – what it is; what it means for federal justice assistance funding; what Congress may do to avoid the “fiscal cliff;” and, what policymakers in DC need to know about how these future cuts will impact your work.

Presenting were Shai Akabas, Senior Policy Analyst with the Bipartisan Policy Center, who is an expert on federal budget matters, having served as staff for the Domenici-Rivlin Debt Reduction Task Force; Kathryn Schubert, Vice President with CRD Associates, who helps coordinate the work of the Non-Defense Discretionary Summit, the broad-based group of stakeholder interests working to raise awareness about the cuts in funding expected under sequestration; Elizabeth Pyke, NCJA’s Director of Government Affairs, who is helping to coordinate the criminal justice community’s work on sequestration; and Christine Leonard, Director of the Vera Institute of Justice’s Washington DC office, who is representing the public safety community on the NDD Steering Committee.

Download the Sequestration Webinar.

Please note: This download is free to NCJA members. The cost is $15.00 for non-members.

OMB Report on Sequestration

In response to legislation enacted by Congress, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) produced a report in September 2012 that estimates the cuts to federal programs.

Resources on Sequestration and Fiscal Cliff