Budget writers at Pentagon move forward despite spending threat

The Pentagon is pretending the threat of the “fiscal cliff” doesn’t exist when it comes to the Defense Department’s 2014 budget.

Budget planners are preparing their 2014 budget as if lawmakers will avoid the automatic spending cuts, known as sequestration, that are scheduled to hit the Pentagon in January.

“We are still hopeful that Congress will pass a balanced deficit reduction plan that the president can sign, and sequestration is averted,” Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col. Elizabeth Robbins said.

The likelihood of the cuts has grown in the last week, with the White House and congressional Republicans unable to work out a combination of spending cuts, tax hikes and entitlement reforms that both sides can agree to.

If Congress cannot come up with a plan to avoid sequestration, DOD will be hit with $52.3 billion in automatic spending cuts in the next fiscal year, Robbins acknowledged. More than $500 billion in cuts to the Pentagon would be made over the next 10 years.

The threat of those cuts was supposed to work as an incentive to get lawmakers to come up with an alternative plan to reduce the nation’s deficit, but Congress hasn’t cooperated so far.

If the cuts aren’t prevented, the Pentagon will be forced to reform its budget to reflect the additional cuts, Robbins said.

And that could make it tough for budget planners at the Pentagon to meet their deadline for submitting the budget in February.

The Pentagon in September vowed it would not consider sequestration when it came to the 2014 budget. At that time, confidence remained high that a deal would be reached between Congress and the White House.