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Sequestration and the impacts on law enforcement, firefighters and emergency services

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The countdown towards sequestration continues. Most Americans, in all walks of life, are tired of hearing about this impending March 1 deadline, but alas, the impacts of these cuts could have significant impacts on those in public safety positions.

First off, here’s a quick review of sequestration, per CNN:

Sequestration is a series of automatic, across-the-board cuts to government agencies totalling $1.2 trillion over 10 years. These cuts are split 50-50 between defense and domestic discretionary spending. Sequestration is a means to deal with the growing U.S. national debt, which is now in excess of $16 trillion. And, as you might remember, this March 1 deadline was part of the whole fiscal cliff debacle we experienced at the end of last year.

So what does this mean for those in law enforcement or other public safety agencies? The Washington Post came up with a graphic depiction of the impacts of sequestration on different sectors and conveniently broke it down state-by-state. Check out the impact sequestration will have on law enforcement agencies and public safety agencies around the nation  [click on the “law enforcement” tab].

According to this report, the five states that stand to lose the most from justice assistance grants are:

  • California with $1.6 million
  • Texas with $1.1 million
  • Florida with $970,000
  • New York with $780,000
  • Illinois with $587,000

I live in Virginia, so I thought I’d take a look at what impact law enforcement agencies will feel in this state. According to the Washington Post, Virginia stands to lose about $276,000 in Justice Assistance Grants that support law enforcement, prosecution and courts, crime prevention and education, corrections and community corrections, drug treatment and enforcement, and crime victim and witness initiatives. In addition, there are other public safety impacts such as a loss of $172,000 in funds for services to victims of domestic violence.

There has already been some impact to public safety ahead of the deadline. It has been reported that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials have released “several hundred” immigrants from deportation centers across the country. ICE said these immigrants were released in an effort to cut costs ahead of the sequestration deadline.

Many public safety agencies are bracing for the impacts of this $85 billion cuts in the federal government. During a recent speech, President Obama warned these cuts could impact the safety of the public:

Emergency responders like the ones who are here today — their ability to help communities respond to and recover from disasters will be degraded,” Obama asserted, according to the article. “Border Patrol agents will see their hours reduced. FBI agents will be furloughed. Federal prosecutors will have to close cases and let criminals go.”

There is also major concern by the firefighter community about lost funds and jobs. According to an article in Homeland Security Today, Federal agencies have put more than $1 billion into local fire departments over the past 3.5 years, restoring more than 10,000 firefighter jobs. These jobs are now at risk under the sequester.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials also warned of damage to the nation’s border security if the sequester goes through. CBP will have to cut $754 million in its budget from March 1 through Sept. 30. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told Congress that CBP would have to reduce the hours of officers by the equivalent of 5,000 Border Patrol agents and more than 2,750 CBP officers.

Do you work in one of these public safety agencies? Are you worried about the damage sequestration could have to your agency or your job?

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