Department of Commerce

The actions the Department of Commerce (Commerce) took to implement sequestration varied across its components. Some components had begun early retirement offerings in fiscal year 2012 or restructured field offices in 2011 or 2012, which provided savings that were used to address fiscal year 2013 sequestration cuts. Commerce also used funding flexibilities to respond to sequestration. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) initially planned to furlough its employees for 4 days, but canceled the furlough in late May 2013 after reprogramming funds across numerous programs, projects, and activities (PPAs). According to Commerce officials, sequestration led to a delay of one quarter for a next-generation weather satellite program and hindered the development of lower-cost options for conducting the 2020 Census. Further, officials told us sequestration delayed U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) information technology upgrades and field office openings. Along with reduced hiring, this increased the number of years USPTO estimates it will take to meet its goals for the average time to process patent applications.