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Obama administration warns of grim consequences when cuts kick in

To raise awareness, the Obama Administration is pointing to specific programs and departments that would be affected by automatic budget cuts set to begin March 1, including the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Parks Service. 

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But in a statement, Airlines for America, an industry group, said the organization, the FAA and airline carriers would be meeting soon to plan for potential cutbacks. "Air transportation is a key driver of our economy, and should not be used as a political football," the statement said.

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Paul Rinaldi, the president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, said the reductions will not just inconvenience passengers, it will also affect local economies and result in more lost jobs. "The fact that they will not just be furloughing critical FAA personnel but closing air traffic control towers means the system will be even more compromised than anticipated," he added.

Still, top Republicans on congressional transportation and aviation panels accused the administration of unnecessary alarm.

"Before jumping to the conclusion that furloughs must be implemented, the administration and the agency need to sharpen their pencils and consider all the options," the lawmakers said in a joint statement issued by Rep. Bill Shuster, chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure; Sen. John Thune, the top Republican on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation; and Frank LoBiondo, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Aviation.

Throughout the administration, agency heads have been depicting an onerous after-effect to the cuts. The federal government is required to spell out the consequences to federal workers, but the details are also designed to warn lawmakers that the cuts could have a fearsome result: angry constituents. Some of the warnings:

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta last week said that automatic cuts, known in Washington budget language as a sequester, would harm the readiness of U.S. fighting forces and he said the "vast majority" of the Defense Department's 800,000 civilian workers would have to lose one day of work per week, or 20 percent of their pay, for up to 22 weeks, probably starting in late April. The biggest potential losses, in term of total civilian payroll dollars, would be in Virginia, California, Maryland, Texas and Georgia, according to figures provided by the Pentagon.

— On Friday, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said cuts of more than $300 million to his agency would mean less money to solve outbreaks, fight hospital infections and keep illnesses overseas from making their way here. For instance, Dr. Tom Frieden said, the cuts could limit the agency's investigation of a tuberculosis outbreak in Los Angeles.

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