Federal contractors at Department of Energy facilities in Oak Ridge are fairly sure the sequestration of the federal budget will arrive in March—the likelihood of a budget deal is dim. They are making plans to handle a 5 to 7 percent cut in the budgets for various contractors. It will likely mean hundreds of layoffs in the coming months.
The waste clean-up effort may suffer the most, rather than cuts in the nuclear weapons plant at Y-12 or the national laboratory. The contracts for various facilities concern the management fees and profits the companies will earn, but the facilities have budgets for ongoing operations.
There may be some operations that will be funded through the fiscal year—cutting 10 percent of a budget six months into the budget year is very difficult. That would push some layoffs until October. But it is likely that entities like UT-Battelle will start layoffs at least by summer.
Nationally, there are non-productive labs and expensive projects that would make more sense to terminate, but the process will instead involve cutting everybody in DOE. Each national laboratory has its advocates in Congress and shutting down a lab or killing a turkey isn’t likely to happen.
(TVA, which does not receive any federal appropriations, is not affected.)