Senate defense bill takes first steps to undo sequestration

Making good on earlier promises, members of Congress are using the 2013 defense bill to reverse the impending effects of sequestration, the “doomsday” scenario which was triggered in late 2011 amid budget-cut squabbling on Capitol Hill.

The National Defense Authorization Act currently being considered in the Senate includes orders for Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to produce by Aug. 15 a detailed report examining the impact of sequestration on DOD, which could take effect on Jan. 2, 2013. Sequestration would assess $492 billion in defense spending reductions between 2013 and 2021, in additional to $487 billion in cuts DOD is already implementing. The failure of a so-called "supercommittee" to agree on more targeted budget cuts trigger sequestration as a consequence.

“The leaders of [DOD] have consistently testified that automatic reductions would have a detrimental impact on the department’s ability to maintain readiness... Sequestration will also have a detrimental effect on the industrial base that supports [DOD],” language in the Senate’s NDAA conference report noted.

According to the conference notes, the mandated report must include sequestration’s potential impact military readiness, the ability to carry out the national military strategy and any changes to the most recent chairman’s risk assessment.

Additionally, the language demands an evaluation of how sequestration could affect industry and employment.

“The committee is also aware that automatically triggered cuts would disrupt programs, projects and activities across the military departments and components, potentially causing the termination or restructuring of hundreds of contracts,” according to the document. “Therefore, the report should include an estimate of the number and value of all contracts that will be terminated or re-scoped due to sequestration, including an estimate of the resulting costs.”

The bill goes on to demand the report include an estimate of the number of civilian, contract and uniformed personnel whose employment would be terminated due to sequestration.

Throughout the conference notes, members of the Senate Armed Services Committee decried the looming threat of sequestration, demanding Congress act to stop the process from taking effect in January.

“Pentagon leadership has repeatedly warned that these additional cuts, totaling almost half a trillion dollars over the next decade, would devastate the department’s ability to provide for the nation’s defense,” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), SASC chairman, said in the notes. “Sequestration would undermine the readiness of the armed services, dramatically reduce our ability to project power and defend our interests, jeopardize the livelihood of civilian and uniformed personnel alike and increase risk to national security - not to mention the shattering impact on our fragile economy with the potential for hundreds of thousands of layoffs.”

On June 2 at the Shangri-La Dialog in Singapore, Panetta once again rejected sequestration, calling on Congress to nullify what he said has amounted to them putting a gun to their head, according to a DOD release.

“Sequester is not a real crisis, it’s an artificial crisis,” Panetta said.

About the Author

Amber Corrin is a former staff writer for FCW and Defense Systems.

Reader comments

Thu, Jun 7, 2012 No Way

We have a democrat president and Panetta has long been a liberal, so Panetta's concern of a weaker military if this happens, is somewhat not believable. Cutting the military in favor of social entitlements is what the democrat party is all about. It is absolutely nonsense to try to solve our debt on the back of discretionary spending such as defense. The president and congress need to lower the upward slope of entitlements over the long term to make a real difference. Otherwise this is simply rearranging chairs on the Titanic before it goes down. I kow it's a very trite and overused statement, but very appropriate here. The gov't can make changes to social security and medicare/madicaid/Obamacare that affect those younger then 35 allowing them time to make changes to deal with it.

Thu, Jun 7, 2012

You can’t just point to how much we spend on defense (more than the next 10 countries combined) – you also have to consider what we get for those dollars at the very same time. In my opinion all those dollars we’ve spent have contributed greatly to the lack of any major aggression by the world’s bad guys – e.g., no “world wars”. That is worth a lot.

Wed, Jun 6, 2012

Paneta's response seems incomplete to me. A funding reduction would certainly impact our ability to conduct the kinds of missions we currently perform. But invading Iraq, or threatening Syria, or possibly even defending Israel regardless of how it treats Palestinians, have almost nothing to do with our national defense.

Wed, Jun 6, 2012

Looks like the "Sequestration" has backfired on Congress.

Wed, Jun 6, 2012

Just becuase the SASC members agree it's a problem is meaningless. The only way it's solved is to push these cuts on to the domestic side (Democrats say no way) OR raise taxes(Republicans say no way). There is nothing between now and Jan 1st that will prevent this. Buckle up!

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