White House tours halted, staff reductions blamed
WASHINGTON (AP) — No more chance sightings of first dog Bo?
Citing the impact of new spending cuts on staffing, the U.S. Secret Service and the National Park Service announced that public tours of the White House will be canceled beginning Saturday.
The cancellations come at the start of the spring tourist season, a popular time for White House tours.
Callers to the White House Visitors Office information line are told that tours already planned will not be rescheduled. The free, self-guided tours can take three weeks to six months for visitors to arrange through requests submitted to members of Congress or to embassies.
The cancellation is one of the consequences attributed to the automatic spending cuts that began to take effect Friday. The cuts, known in Washington as “sequestration,” were initially designed to force Congress and the Obama administration to agree to a long-term deficit reduction plan. Those negotiations, however, failed to come up with an alternative.
As a result, the government has been forced to cut $85 billion from a myriad of federal accounts between March 1 and Sept. 30.
The U.S. Secret Service said that Uniformed Division Officers assigned to the public tours will be reassigned to other security posts. The reassignments will reduce overtime costs as well as potential furloughs that could have been required to meet the cuts in spending, the Secret Service said.