Sequestration

Pentagon ramping up for major cuts

capitol dome and bills

Congress is unlikely to avert sequestration again, DOD leaders believe. (Stock image)

Sequestration increasingly is looking like a reality, and the Defense Department as well as some lawmakers are taking more steps toward preparing for sweeping budget cuts set to hit March 1.

Government officials, including the deputy secretary of defense and the House Budget Committee chairman, now publicly state that sequestration likely is a reality, marking a departure from more than a year of hedging against the 10 percent across-the-board federal spending cuts.

"From what I hear, I have to conclude that it is more likely than unlikely that we’ll actually have to do this," said Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, according to Stars and Stripes. "We are serious about being ready."

Timeline

Key dates on the road to the fiscal cliff:

  •  Aug. 2, 2011: Budget Control Act of 2011 creates the "super committee," required to recommend more than $1 trillion in spending cuts.
  •  Nov. 21, 2011: Super committee gives up, triggering sequestration to take effect on Jan. 2, 2013.
  •  December 2012: Congress debates competing ideas to avert sequestration, with little apparent progress.
  •  Jan. 1-2, 2013: Congress passes, and Obama signs, the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, delaying the cuts by two months.

Earlier in the week, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) also stated that sequestration likely will be triggered as lawmakers remain deadlocked on how to implement federal budget cuts that would prevent the mechanism, which already was delayed from taking effect Jan. 2.

"I think the sequester is going to happen," Ryan said Jan. 27 on NBC’s Meet the Press. "We think these sequesters will happen because the Democrats have rejected our efforts to replace those cuts with others and have offered no alternatives."

Sequestration threatens just as a continuing resolution funding the government through March nears expiration, which in the past has led Washington to the brink of government shutdowns. On Jan. 29, two lawmakers moved to prevent a shutdown from affecting military operations, introducing bipartisan legislation that exempts troops, civilian DOD personnel and mission-essential contractors from any loss of pay.

"Our men and women in uniform and our national security should not suffer if Congress is unable or unwilling to get the nation's fiscal house in order," said Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), who co-sponsored the bill. "We need to protect our military and critical civilian workers from the painful consequences of a government shutdown, and we can’t allow either side to use troops as leverage in political disputes."

Federal guidance on planning for budget cuts has been trickling from the Office of Management and Budget downward, including from the Pentagon to the individual services. According to Inside Defense, OMB issued yet another planning tool: a "passback," or key budget guidance, for fiscal 2014. The 2014 budget already has been delayed; the passback is critical for finalizing the federal budget for the fiscal year.

"It indicates that OMB has a plan for the overall '14 budget and we respond to what they have given us," Lt. Col. Elizabeth Robbins, Pentagon spokesperson, said. "It is not the final step in the budget process, of course, but it is a necessary step and a move towards a final budget request for the year."

There is no word on if the passback includes guidance specific to budget cuts that could be implemented in 2014.

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Reader comments

Mon, Feb 4, 2013 Don California

What I think is outrageous is the fact that Federal Employees complain about the very problem they have helped most significantly to create. It's not the salaries but all the perks that have ultimately caused this budget deficit and will continue to cause it to increase every day, month, year until Congress gets itself together and votes for serious reform. I am glad to see, at the very least, some form of budget control however, it is nothing more than a small bandaid on the real problems which need to get fixed fast.

Mon, Feb 4, 2013 Mike

The 4 Naval Shipyards could avoid the furloughs that would save about $500 Million if the money to Public TV was re-directed to the shipyards. But to the Democrats, Big BIrd and PBS is more important than national defense. Similar trims and cuts to non-essential programs could save other parts of national defense - but the Democrats don't give a damn!!

Mon, Feb 4, 2013 lesliee

Well, Moses, the President proposes, but the Congress disposes. Congress initiates laws, passes (or doesn't pass) laws, and the President doesn't get to it until the law passes his desk. It's in the Constitution. What do you want, to have the President use the Secret Service to take all the Congress hostage? Have a Presidential coup? Propose a real solution.

Mon, Feb 4, 2013 Mark Crawford Dumfries

Well now, lets hope that DoD and the civil agencies cut what needs to be cut rather than just assessing every program a certain percentage. To you government workers who say you should just walk away - please do so and lets hope your job gets disestablished in the process. Why? Because after spending 35 years in either DoD or as strategic consultant to various Federal Agencies, I believe that the federal budget can be cut by 25% with no impact on efficiency - through a combination of personnel cuts in redundant positions, forced accountability in decisions and deliverables, and simple reduction of redundancies within and across agencies. However, this will only happen if real budget cuts transpire that are forced on the agencies, if congress reviews the legislative mandates that require much of the agency spending, if the executive branch reviews executive orders and rules that also require much of the agency spending, and if the budget process itself is changed from zero sum game to strategic validation agency by agency with annual carryovers rather than spend or lose.

Mon, Feb 4, 2013 crosseye

Washington D.C. has been addicted to SPENDING, just like a drug addict insists on his "fix". For several decades Washington D.C. has spent beyond our means, and has made up the difference through more Taxes and more INFLATION. Currently, spending exceeds tax revenues, so our Treasury/Federal Reserve are filling in the difference with fiat money creation, which will lead to very high INFLATION. One should have NO confidence in Washington D.C.

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