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Search Tags: sequestration
The nation's top military leaders warned Congress in unusually stark terms that its failure to pass a 2013 defense budget - coupled with the threat of automatic budget cuts - has pushed the Pentagon to the brink of a crisis.
Robert Work, the undersecretary of the Navy, says forget about the Reagan-era aspirations of a 600-ship fleet. Even with a smaller Navy, things are better than ever, he says, even if they're about to get worse due to smaller budgets and the threat of sequestration. "Yes, things might get worse. In fact, they probably will get worse. But this is the heyday of the U.S. Navy. And, if you're not excited, you ain't breathing," he said at the Surface Navy Association's annual symposium this week.
The Army has put an immediate freeze on civilian hiring and will begin terminating some temporary employees to reduce spending ahead of potential across-the-board budget cuts later this year. Army Chief of Staff Ray Odierno and Army Secretary John McHugh also directed Army commanders and supervisors to reduce base-operations support spending.
Guidance from the administration on what steps federal agencies should take to prepare for potential across-the-board budget cuts has set off a war of words between federal-employee unions and industry groups. The American Federation of Government Employees says guidance exempts contractors at the expense of federal employees, but industry groups say the criticism is misguided.
The Defense Finance and Accounting Service will implement significant cost-cutting measures next week to prepare for the possibility of automatic spending cuts due to hit government in March. DFAS plans to freeze most hiring, reduce travel and overtime, and temporarily halt new employee performance awards, according to DFAS Director Terri McKay.
DoD's operations and maintenance accounts will likely be hit first if sequestration goes into effect. Unlike its procurement and research and development activities, which can continue to function on funds obligated in prior years, O&M dollars generally get spent right away. In preparation for sequestration, the Pentagon has already let go of tens of thousands of temporary hires and is drawing up a contingency plan for one-day-a-week furloughs. Deputy Secretary Ashton Carter says the unpaid furloughs would begin in April and continue through the remainder of the fiscal year if sequestration is not avoided.
Much of the media is treating the threat of a 22-day federal furlough as if it were a sporting event, Senior Correspondent Mike Causey says. But this is big-time, heavy economic stuff. A revenue-choker for struggling state and local governments and a possible threat to economic recovery.
Republicans on the House and Senate Armed Services Committees have proposed an alternative to the automatic budget cuts set to go into effect next month that includes reducing the size of the federal workforce by 10 percent through attrition.