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Pentagon Not Planning for Looming Sequester Cuts

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  • November 22, 2011
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The Defense Department is not making contingency plans for the $500 billion budget hit triggered by the supercommittee’s failure to agree on a deficit reduction plan, the New York Times reported Tuesday.

“We are not planning for the sequester,” Pentagon spokesman Doug Wilson said. “The focus is on trying to get Congress to do what it said it would do.”

Tuesday’s statement — along with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s response Monday to the panel’s inability to reach a deal — would seem to indicate the department is somewhat optimistic Congress will produce a new deficit reduction plan over the next 13 months before the first sequester kicks in on Jan. 2, 2013. More likely, though, officials are shying away from planning for the automatic spending reductions to avoid demonstrating that the cuts are manageable, according to the National Defense blog.

As a result, the fiscal 2013 budget request DOD submits in February will ignore the possibility that automatic spending cuts could be imposed, according to the blog’s sources. It will, however, include about $250 billion to $260 billion in cuts — a little more than half of the $450 billion in savings already called for under August’s deal to raise the nation’s debt limit — in its five-year, future years defense program.

To meet the targets under the budget sequester, DOD would need to cut $54.7 billion annually from FY 2013 through FY 2021. Those savings would come on top of an estimated $45 billion to $50 billion annual reduction needed to address the debt agreement’s first round of savings.

Last week, Panetta said the immediate impact of a budget sequester would be a 23 percent cut in FY 2013 defense spending if the president opted to exempt military personnel from the sequester.

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