Nightly News   |  March 08, 2013

Sequestration a symptom of Washington dysfunction

The FAA may need to furlough air traffic controllers and close towers, which will create delays -- but it’s spending $20 million giving away money to tiny airports that might get one private plane landing a week. NBC’s Lisa Myers examines the different and sometimes illogical ways money is being cut (and spent) during the sequester.

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>>> aide visiting our studios for an interviewed in another broadcast this week, with six people in toe, including a security detail , it got us to thinking about government spending in the era of this so-called sequester budget cut package. today, for example, tours of the white house will stop due to a lack of funding. while all kinds of other things go on. this has led to charges that the white house is picking its targets. looking to make its point in a big, showy way. our report tonight from our senior investigative correspondent, lisa myers .

>> reporter: today was the last day of white house tours for a while, because of budget cuts ordered by the secret service .

>> i'm very sad for the people that will not be able to see the inside of the gorgeous white house .

>> for a lot of people, it's a once in a lifetime opportunity to go in the white house .

>> reporter: yet earlier this week, a 20-car motorcade with tons of security took the president across town for dinner with senators to talk about the budget. and there could be more of that if the president plays golf this weekend. why is this happening? sequestration. the government officially defines sequestration as a process of automatic, largely across the board spending reductions to meet its budget goals. but it's come to represent the utter dysfunction of washington . today the army announced it's suspending tuition assistance to soldiers, which quickly drew fire on facebook. there are other ways to cut spending than taking away tuition assistance for soldiers. and why not cut the president's vacation funding instead? the federal aviation administration says it may furlough air traffic controllers and close towers. creating delays. yet it's spending more than $20 million a year giving money away to tiny airports like this one, which may get one private plane landing a week. then at the department of homeland security , tsa is threatening to furlough screeners and create long lines. critics say the department could save much more by cutting from a grant program, which last year paid for $286,000 armored personnel carrier for keene, new hampshire.

>> the sequester may be a stupid policy, but there is no reason to implement it stupidly. so i think people look at it as gamesmanship, and a continuation of political dysfunction in washington .

>> reporter: meanwhile, outside the white house , this is what some people are saying.

>> i understand budgets. but something needs to be done. they still need to allow tours. that's part of what we have a right of as americans.

>> reporter: lisa myers , nbc news, washington .

>>> it's been just over a week since pope benedict abdicated,