On Monday, the co-chairs of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, aka the “supercommittee”, formally admitted defeat in their bid to develop a deficit reduction plan before a Wednesday deadline. The Budget Control Act passed in August established the supercommittee and required that it come up with at least $1.2 trillion in reductions, through any combination of spending cuts and revenue increases, by Wednesday; if it had, Congress would have had a month to vote on the plan.
The failure of the supercommittee means that automatic cuts, called sequestration, will take effect starting in fiscal year 2013. But as I note in an article Monday in The Space Review that covers nearer-term budget issues as well, the effect of this sequestration on NASA and other federal agencies is still uncertain. The required cuts in non-defense discretionary spending for FY13 amount to $54.7 billion, although the exact impact on each agency is uncertain (defense spending would also get an across-the-board $54.7-billion cut in FY13). It’s also possible the cuts will be modified by Congress in the months to come, as some have already proposed.