Republicans slam White House sequestration report

"This report confirms that the president’s ‘sequester’ is a serious threat to our national security and must be replaced," House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said on Friday. 


"But ... President Obama and [congressional] Democrats have taken no action whatsoever to avert these cuts," Boehner noted. 

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For his part, the report "highlights the crippling effect these reductions will have on our nation’s security," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) added in a statement released the same day. 

The White House analysis "makes glaringly clear that those programs most closely related to combat readiness of the force will be severely cut," according to McConnell, noting the administration's report "underscores the urgent need" for the White House to reach out to Republicans to avert sequestration. 

“Unfortunately, at a time when threats to our country are growing, this report represents another example of the failure of President Obama ... [and] echoes the dire warnings of [the Pentagon] and yet the President has failed to lead a bipartisan effort to avert this looming national security disaster," Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Linsdey Graham (R-S.C.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) added on Friday. 

The budget cuts under sequestration were built into last summer’s deal to raise the debt ceiling. The cuts were designed to force a supercommittee of lawmakers to reach an agreement to cut the deficit by $1.2 trillion. The failure of the supercommittee to reach a deficit deal forces the automatic cuts, unless Congress can pass new legislation before the year is out to make deficit reductions without sequestration. 

House Republican Conference Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), whose legislation forced the administration to issue its sequestration plan, shared in Boehner and McConnell's frustration the administration's inaction to address the cuts. 

“When it comes to averting this looming national defense crisis, President Obama: absent without leadership," Hensarling said Friday in a statement. 

"Even though the sequester was originally concocted by his administration, the president could not even manage to meet last week’s legal deadline for explaining how he plans to implement these cuts," Hensarling said, regarding the week-long delay in the report's release. 

"The most sensible way to achieve the $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction required by the Budget Control Act is through commonsense spending reform, not a weakened national defense," the Texas Republican added. 

The report, issued by the White House's Office of Management and Budget, provided the clearest picture to date of where the ax will fall if lawmakers fail to prevent the automatic cuts with new legislation.

Cuts of approximately $110 billion are set to take effect in Jan. 3, according to an agreement reached by the administration and Congress, with half of the cuts falling on discretionary and non-discretionary defense budgets, and the other half affecting non-defense budgets.

Discretionary spending accounts for the Defense department will be cut by 10 percent, while non-discretionary funds for the Pentagon will be cut at a lower rate of 9.4 percent, according to the administration's report. 

Non-military discretionary accounts will be trimmed across the board by more than 8 percent, while non-discretionary accounts will also be cut at a lower rate of 7.2 percent, according to the report.

Those cuts, which also include a 2 percent cut to Medicare spending, are preliminary estimates based on current spending figures for fiscal 2012, according to the White House. 

The first tranche of the budget cuts, totaling roughly $110 billion across defense and non-defense accounts, are set to go into effect in January. 

While the report did outline the areas where the administration anticipated the cuts to go into place, and how much each area would be cut by, the level of detail in those figures still fell short for many top Republicans. 

"The report released today by the administration does not meet the requirement of the law to provide a report ‘at the program, project, and activity level,’ yet reveals the alarming impacts sequestration will have on our nation's ability to protect itself," Chairman of the Senate Republican Conference John Thune (R-S.D.) and Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Senate Budget Committee ranking member, said in a joint statement. 

"The sequester remains a serious threat not only to our nation’s security needs, but also to our economy [but] ... the White House seems perfectly happy with inaction, as evidenced by the incompleteness of this report," they added. 

On Friday, House Armed Services Committee chief Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) said the White House's review merely "pays lip service" to the potentially harmful impacts of sequestration. 

Given the lack of detail in the White House review, McKeon also skewered OMB officials for the report's delay.

"With a year to consider this crisis, I can’t understand why they needed an extra week to produce such an inadequate report," he said in a statement. 

With just over three months until sequester, and "no proposal from the President to avert them, and no predictability on how OMB will apply the cuts ... the commander in chief appears to be willing to leave the military without either resources or strategy," McKeon added. 

For their part, House defense staffers said McKeon and others planned to press top DOD brass for more detail on the administration's report, when they come before the committee on Thursday. 

DOD Comptroller Bob Hale and the vice chiefs from the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force are all scheduled to testify before the House panel on the White House report. 

Without getting down the program-by-program impact of sequestration to defense coffers, lawmakers are simply not getting the full picture on the impact of sequestration on the department, a top House defense committee staffer told reporters Friday. 

"As long as there is no concept [of consequence] ... it is pretty hard to generate the energy to solve the problem," the staffer said. 

But simply issuing a report on the possible impact of sequestration will sap that energy from Capitol Hill, a senior administration official said on Friday. 

White House wanted Congress to focus on planning and strategizing ways to avoid sequestration, not preparing for when the cuts go into effect in January. 

Issuing a report like the one released Friday would have served as a distraction to lawmakers' efforts to come up with a sequesteration alternative, the official said. 

—Jeremy Herb and Erik Wasson contributed to this report.