On and on it went, as Pentagon officials filled out their allotted cut painlessly. In the end, officials said, there was just one instance where the Pentagon "lost scope" purely as a result of the landmark budget cuts. Meaning: where the military had to cut something it actually wanted to keep. That was a project at a base in Qatar — a medical-administration building and two warehouses. Total real-world savings: $25.2 million.
Just 0.4 percent of the total that Congress counted as "cut" on paper.
Not all the bill's cuts were illusory, however. The Post's analysis found five large cuts that turned out to be very real.
None of them actually caused an agency in Washington to shed federal personnel. Instead, they reduced the money that passed through those agencies to state and local projects.
There was a $997 million decrease in funding for Environmental Protection Agency programs to loan out for water-restoration projects. The result, EPA officials estimated, was that 210 fewer projects received funding.
An additional $942 million was cut from community development funds, shared by 1,200 cities and towns around the country. In Boston, for instance, that translated into a funding cut of $3.7 million from the year before. The money is used, in part, to fix up dilapidated homes. On average, the city needs $27,000 to fix up a home so it's ready for a tenant in need.
"We just do less volume," said Sheila Dillon with the city of Boston. "It's taking us longer to fund good affordable housing projects, and subsequently there's people who are spending too much money on rent."
One of the bill's sharpest impacts was felt in Calexico, Calif., 2,500 miles away from Washington. For years, people there have complained that the local border crossing cannot handle enough cars: Lines back up for hours on the Mexican side, which provides 60 percent of Calexico's retail shoppers.