"Devastating" is how an accompanying FASEB statement describes the effect this would have on medical research. Overuse has made that word an exhausted cliché, but in this case it's probably accurate; what it literally means is 'laying waste', and sequestration could do real damage. As economist Paula Stephan noted in her new book, How Economics Shapes Science-and as the end of the NIH doubling demonstrated some years back-many projects have great difficulty getting underway or continuing when funding doesn't continually rise, let alone undergo really substantial reductions.
Citing the threat of delays in "discoveries that can lead to new treatments and improved health," not to mention of discouraging young people from entering science and harming lots of local economies, FASEB president Joseph LaManna calls it "imperative that Congress prevent such automatic, across-the-board cuts," according to the statement. "It could take us generations to recover the lost talent [of those] driven from science by the disruption of their training and work," predicts the analysis. "Congress must prevent the automatic, across-the-board cuts from sequestration and ensure that NIH receives the $32 billion in FY2013 recommended by more than 150 Representatives from both parties," the document continues in boldface.
Of course, if the threat of sequestration becomes real, depending on what Congress does in the coming months, every other interest group in the nation, far beyond science, will also be sounding similarly dramatic doomsday alarms and demanding full funding for their particular, and particularly crucial, programs-all right in the middle of what appears likely to be a nasty presidential campaign season and an even nastier lame-duck Congressional session. It could be, of course, that Congress doesn't actually want to precipitate budgetary calamity and the resulting wrath of the electorate. We can hope that it will, probably with nanoseconds to spare, head sequestration off. But it's likely to be a hair-raising ride until we find out.