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After the 'sequester,' now what?

It happened: $85 billion in across-the-board cuts to defense (8 percent cut) and social programs (5 to 6 percent) took effect March 1. Officials from President Obama on down spent weeks warning about the dire effects of these reductions. The cuts must occur this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. Here's how things look.

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In this file photo, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is seen at a news conference earlier this month at the Pentagon.

Carolyn Kaster/AP/File

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1. Q: Remind me – why the "sequester" in the first place?

The Budget Control Act of 2011, signed by President Obama on Aug. 2, 2011, ended the federal debt-ceiling fight that had threatened to force the US government to default by Aug. 3. The bill also contained a mechanism to ensure future budget negotiations: the sequester, as it came to be called. The sequester was designed to be so unpalatable in the eyes of both Republicans and Democrats that they'd work hard to strike a deal. Needless to say, the sequester was not dire enough to avoid what both political parties should agree is a self-inflicted wound.

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