Time is running out: unless Congress acts by March first - $85 billion in massive spending cuts will kick in automatically. Two million federal workers face furloughs.
But one way or another the impact may be felt by most Americans.
The White House warns that 10-thousand teacher jobs would be at risk and 70-thousand children could be removed from Head Start.
The cuts would hit during tax season - meaning millions of taxpayers would have an even tougher time getting answers from the IRS.
CNN's Chris Lawrence has been looking at other areas where you may feel the sting.
CNN's Suzanne Kelly reports on a scathing report from a Senate Homeland Security Sub-committee which is critical of the way fusion centers–the post 9/11 groups set up to share information among local, state and federal law enforcement–operate.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano acknowledged Friday her Luddite-like ways, despite the fact her position puts her in a critical leadership role when it comes to defending the nation's infrastructure from cyberattacks.
Napolitano said she does not use email "at all."
"For a whole host of reasons. So, I don't have any of my own accounts and that, you know, I'm very secure," Napolitano noted at a Washington conference about cyber security.
"Some would call me a Luddite but you know. But that's my own personal choice and I'm very unique in that regard I suspect," Napolitano added.
The Obama administration has been pushing Congress to revisit legislation that would have given DHS authority to enforce security standards. Legislation faltered earlier this year over concerns that it was too intrusive in requiring business to share data about intrusions, rather than it being voluntary.
In the meantime, an executive order is being drafted by the Obama administration that would help clarify security standards, Napolitano said. She said President Barack Obama has not reviewed it yet.
Napolitano said legislation would not dictate to companies how to run their security but rather would be a public-private partnerships to defend critical infrastructure.
By CNN's Rene Marsh
The federal government says a potential cyberattack is the most serious economic and national security threat the United States faces, but it faces a shortage of skilled experts who could head off that threat, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano warns.
There's a huge job market for cyberwarriors who can protect the nation's computer networks from an attack, but many of those jobs are going unfilled, Napolitano said.
"There is a lack of expertise and there are a lot of people clamoring for people who know the internet well," said Napolitano, who called electronic security her No. 1 concern. "Millions of people use the internet every day, and we want that - that's a good thing. But there is this dark side, and that's what we need to be protecting against."
Homeland Security says it responded to more than 106,000 cyberattacks in 2011. Napolitano says without more experts in repelling those incursions, the U.S. economy could be the biggest casualty.
By CNN's Carol Cratty
Starting next week, Syrians who have been living temporarily in the United States will be able to apply for Temporary Protected Status and remain in the U.S., the Department of Homeland Security announced Friday.
"Conditions in Syria have worsened to the point where Syrian nationals already in the United States would face serious threats to their personal safety if they were to return to their home country," Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said in a written statement.
A Homeland Security official said that an estimated 2,500 to 3,000 people who now have visas will be eligible to apply to stay in the U.S. for 18 months. Approval is not automatic: Applicants must undergo full background checks, and criminals and anyone considered a national security threat will not be accepted, according to the official.
Rest easy, America.
During his tenure as National Security Advisor to the President, James Jones evidently spent his time sifting through intelligence, and not surfing the Internet for good deals on stilettos or pumps.
Jones's apparent unfamiliarity about some on-line shopping sites became clear Tuesday during a panel discussion, during which Jones pontificated about how the threat of cyber attacks impacts "everything we do."
"Zappos," interjected moderator Jeanne Meserve, referring to the popular online shoe store, where hackers recently accessed information about millions of customers.
"Pardon me?" Jones said, perhaps thinking "Zappos" was code.
"Zappos," Meserve repeated.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano came to his rescue.
"We know what Zappos is. Not to worry," Napolitano said to Jones.
"We've got better intel."
Budget pressures, here and abroad, may cut into security initiatives.
But Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Tuesday those same money pressures argue for improved coordination between the U.S. and its allies.
"Budget pressures I think, on all of us, requires us to act more internationally," Napolitano said. "We have to leverage resources with one another."
Top U.S. officials say they are not ready to put aside threat information received last week that al Qaeda terrorists wanted to attack New York or Washington around the time of the 10th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks.
"We consider it an ongoing threat," Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told a Senate committee Tuesday. "And we continue to lean forward into confirming that threat."
By Mike M. Ahlers
Intelligence officials have picked up "lots of chatter" on jihadi websites and elsewhere about the impending 10th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks, but nothing yet that warrants issuing a threat advisory, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Thursday.
Nonetheless, the department will be at a heightened level of readiness as the nation commemorates the anniversary, "staffing up" Federal Air Marshals and other agencies.
By CNN Producer Paul Courson
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano unveiled new television ads Wednesday for the public awareness campaign "If you see something, say something," as the 10th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks nears.
"Today, we are stronger than we were on 9/11," Napolitano said, but added, "There are no guarantees in this world."
"What we can do is maximize our ability to prevent an attack from occurring, minimize the ability of such an attack having a large impact and increase our ability to respond."
Video of the new television ads was played during Napolitano's remarks at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. One of them is set in a public transit station, where pedestrians watch as someone pulls a handbag from the trunk of a car and leaves it on a bench in the waiting area.