If you have an ACS member number, please enter it here so we can link this account to your membership. (optional)

ACS values your privacy. By submitting your information, you are gaining access to C&EN and subscribing to our weekly newsletter. We use the information you provide to make your reading experience better, and we will never sell your data to third party members.



Sequestration, Shutdown Dominated Headlines

by Andrea Widener
December 23, 2013 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 91, Issue 51

Credit: Newscom
Most federal parks and national monuments were closed during the 16-day government shutdown in October.
This is a photo of a closure sign near the Lincoln Memorial after the government shutdown closed sections of the National Mall in Washington, D.C. on October 1, 2013.
Credit: Newscom
Most federal parks and national monuments were closed during the 16-day government shutdown in October.


Sequestration, Shutdown Dominated Headlines

The budget impasse that led to the October shutdown of the federal government was building all year. The nation started 2013 facing a fiscal cliff: a combination of large tax increases and deep, across-the-board budget cuts, called sequestration. That combination spread fear of a financial free fall through the science establishment and beyond. A last-minute compromise between Congress and President Barack Obama that was signed into law on Jan. 3 narrowly averted a crisis. It provided a deal on individual tax rates and delayed sequestration, which the leaders said would give them more time to reach a broader budget agreement.

But instead, the deal just pushed the problem down the road to March 1, when, with no alternative in place, sequestration went into effect. The unpopular budget cuts totaling $1 trillion over 10 years were designed to force legislators to reduce the deficit. No one really expected them to go into effect. But they did, and the result was an average 8% loss to both defense and nondefense discretionary programs in 2013, with little flexibility on what research to cut.

The impact was immediate for science and environmental agencies, where federal researchers were furloughed and important projects slowed or were terminated. But those in academia felt the pinch, too. A recent survey of universities showed that 70% of those polled had research projects delayed and received fewer research grants because of sequestration. Nearly one-third of respondents reduced their undergraduate research programs, and 16% laid off permanent staff.

Industry wasn’t immune either. “Those who might suggest that the sequester is not having an impact, they are misinformed,” Wes Bush, president of Northrop Grumman and chairman of the Aerospace Industries Association, a defense trade group, said last month. He pointed to cuts to R&D both in industry and in government, as well as damage to the scientific workforce. “The sequester actually hurts our long-term economic prospects.”

Budgetary pain spiked again this fall when Congress failed to pass a fiscal 2014 budget before the year started on Oct. 1. This failure led to a 16-day government shutdown. Several science agencies furloughed their workers, and research at many federal labs ground to a halt, with only essential employees allowed to continue working.

The most widespread damage might have been to the peer review process. Agencies such as the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health had to reschedule hundreds of review panel meetings and campus visits, which may delay the awarding of grants to scientists nationwide.



This article has been sent to the following recipient:

Chemistry matters. Join us to get the news you need.