McKeon sees little hope of overturning sequestration

The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee is not optimistic that defense cuts known as sequestration will be overturned. 

“Right now looking forward I don’t see any possibility of overturning it,” Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) told a group of defense reporters on Thursday. 

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“There are people that have bought into it that think it’s doing a good job, that it’s cutting our spending, and so I personally don’t just see that that’s going to end until a lot of pain is felt by a lot of people,” he said. 

The cuts of about $52 billion per year through 2023 were triggered in 2013 when lawmakers failed to agree on how to reduce a $1 trillion federal deficit. The cuts have been partially relieved through 2015, but defense officials warn that the cuts will hit in full beginning 2016. 

If sequestration is not reversed by 2016, active-duty Army numbers will drop from 520,000 today to 420,000, and the National Guard and Army Reserve would also face steep cuts. The Marine Corps would drop from 190,000 to 175,000. 

Six ships, in addition to 11 ships in 2015, would be temporarily taken out of service, destroyer buys would be stalled, Navy F-35 purchases would be delayed and a carrier would be retired. 

The Air Force would have to retire 80 more aircraft, fewer F-35s would be purchased and drone operations and flying hours would be reduced. 

The soon-to-be released 2015 defense budget request will including projected spending over the next five years, at about $115 billion more than sequestration levels. 

McKeon characterized planning above sequestration levels as a disingenuous move.  

“Sequestration is the law. And they talking about, like, ‘If sequestration happens ...’ It’s going to happen, why not plan on it?” he asked.