Sequester means 'perfect storm' of air delays: White House
By Stephen Collinson, AFPWASHINGTON -- The Obama administration warned Monday of a “perfect storm” of airport delays and less secure U.S. borders when huge spending cuts hit this week, as a top Republican slammed White House “scare” tactics.
February 27, 2013, 11:34 am TWN
Political acrimony escalated another notch ahead of US$85 billion of cuts, known as the sequester, due to slam the government on March 1, but there was no sign of any effort by Democrats or Republicans to break the impasse.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano warned of the consequences of the cuts, as she became the latest cabinet official enrolled in a countrywide White House media blitz intended to pile blame on Republicans.
“At the major international airports, we will be limited in accepting new international flights, and average wait times to clear customs will increase by as much as 50 percent,” Napolitano said.
“At our busiest airports ... peak wait times, which can reach over two hours, could easily grow to four hours or more,” Napolitano said, warning that budget cuts would hit security and customs officers at major hubs.
“You really have a perfect storm in terms of the ability to move around the country,” she said, adding that waits at the southwest U.S. land border could be five hours, and delays for cargo at American ports could last five days.
Napolitano also said that reduced overtime, furloughs and hiring freezes for border agents would make the U.S. border less secure and make it harder to stop illegal immigration.
While stopping short of saying that the United States would be more prone to terror attacks, she said sequestration would make the work of securing the country “awfully, awfully tough.”
The idea for the automatic, arbitrary budget cuts emerged as a way to ease a previous showdown between Obama and Republicans in Congress.
The massive reductions to the military and domestic budget were supposed to be so severe that both sides would be forced to strike an agreement to cut the deficit, but no such deal has been reached in an ever-dysfunctional Washington.
Obama on Monday hit out at the polarized political atmosphere in the U.S. capital, telling his foes that at some point they had to agree to govern.