'Reasonable chance' DOD can duck sequester, says Pentagon budget chief

"I definitely hope sequestration won't happen, and I still believe there's a reasonable chance it will not," DOD comptroller Robert Hale said Tuesday during a speech in Arlington, Va. 

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His comments echo those made by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl LevinCarl LevinObama to preserve torture report in presidential papers 'Nuclear option' for Supreme Court nominees will damage Senate McCain's Supreme Court strategy leads to nuclear Senate MORE (D-Mich.) earlier this month. 

“One way or another, since 90 percent of us don’t want it, it will not happen,” Levin told reporters on Capitol Hill. “My hope is it will not happen early enough to avoid any kind of instability or upset or uncertainty," he added. 

The Pentagon is facing a roughly $500 billion across-the-board budget cut under the White House's sequestration plan. The cuts were triggered by lawmakers failure last summer to come to an agreement on a deal to raise the debt ceiling but cut spending. Another nearly $500 billion in cuts will come from non-defense spending. 

With just over three months until the cuts go into place, lawmakers still have yet to come up with a viable alternative to avoid the funding reductions. 

But according to Hale, there is still hope inside the Pentagon that Congress can forge a alternate plan. 

Hale's optimism belies the severe partisan divide on Capitol Hill over dealing with the automatic cuts. 

Congressional Democrats have argued for months that tax increases must be considered as part of a replacement plan. Republicans in both chambers, however, have shunned including any tax hikes. 

GOP leaders on Capitol Hill argue the planned defense cuts should be replaced with additional cuts to social welfare programs. 

Such partisan bickering has put the Pentagon and the rest of the government on a collision course with a harsh fiscal future, Hale told lawmakers last Thursday. 

“If you're driving into a brick wall at 60 miles an hour, let's find a way to avoid the wall, not figure out a way to pick up the pieces after we hit it,” Hale told members of the House Armed Services Committee.

Hale was responding to committee comments suggesting sequestration could be manageable, if DOD is allowed to weigh in on which areas of the defense budget the reductions would come from. 

“We need to halt [sequestration], rather than try to make it better, because we're not going to be able to make it fundamentally better," he added. 

On Monday, group of Democratic and Republican senators sent a letter to their party's respective leaders pleading for a bipartisan solution to sequestration. 

In the letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidDems want Sessions to recuse himself from Trump-Russia probe Ryan says Trump, GOP 'in complete sync' on ObamaCare Congress has a mandate to repeal ObamaCare MORE (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellGOP senators introducing ObamaCare replacement Monday Senators introduce dueling miners bills Dems demand second hearing for Trump's Education nominee MORE (R-Ky.), the lawmakers also reiterated their commitment to forging an alternative sequestration plan. 

"We are committed to working together to help forge a balanced bipartisan deficit reduction package to avoid damage to our national security, important domestic priorities, and our economy," wrote Levin and Sen. John McCainJohn McCainOvernight Cybersecurity: Obama commutes Chelsea Manning's sentence | A malware mystery Overnight Defense: Obama commutes Manning's sentence | Boeing sees 'progress' on Air Force One costs | McCain's 0B defense budget McCain: Leak of Trump dossier ‘totally wrong’ MORE (R-Ariz.), the ranking member on Armed Services. 

Panel members Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamHaley to question US funding of UN: report Graham, Cruz proposal to defund the U.N. is misguided 9 GOP senators Trump must watch out for MORE (R-S.C.), Jeanne Shaheen Jeanne Shaheen5 billion reasons Rex Tillerson is wrong Mattis's views on women in combat takes center stage Tillerson won't rule out Muslim registry MORE (D-N.H.), Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseHealth pick’s trades put STOCK Act in spotlight Dems prepare to face off with Trump's pick to lead EPA Dem: EPA pick should answer questions before hearing MORE (D-R.I.) and Kelly AyotteKelly AyotteTen rumored Trump Cabinet picks who didn't get a job Sasse, Perdue join Armed Services Committee Avid pilot among GOP senators joining Transportation committee MORE (R-N.H.) also signed the letter. 

On Tuesday, Levin declined to comment on the letter or whether he still believes Congress can reach a solution on sequestration before time runs out on Capitol Hill. 

The Michigan Democrat told The Hill through a spokesman that the language in the letter urging a bipartisan solution should speak for itself. 

—Jeremy Herb contributed to this report.