Policy & Strategy

DOD fires back against GOP claims on sequestration

Pentagon Press Secretary George Little vehemently denied claims by House GOP members that the Defense Department was partly to blame for the $500 billion in automatic, across-the-board defense spending cuts set to go into effect March 2. 

{mosads}”The onus [on sequestration] is on the Congress of the United States,” Little told reporters during a press briefing at the Pentagon.  

Last week, Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee said DOD’s refusal to begin contingency planning for sequestration’s impact to the department’s coffers blocked lawmakers from coming up with a viable sequestration alternative. 

Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) on Wednesday slammed the Defense Department for waiting until the last minute to plan for the across-the-board cuts.

“You are part of the problem … you helped cause this,” Bishop angrily told the DOD and military witnesses during a House Armed Services Committee hearing on sequestration. 

The accusations made by Bishop and Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) during Wednesday’s House defense committee hearing held no weight with DOD leaders, who “have been clear for nearly a year and a half” on the devastating impact of sequestration, according to Little. 

“I don’t accept it,” Little said, point-blank, in response to House GOP criticisms. 

Since Congress included the sequestration plan as part of the debt reduction deal struck in 2011, the Pentagon has been adamant over the “devastating prospect” the automatic budget cuts posed to the department’s bottom line, the DOD spokesman said. 

Further, the claims made by Bishop and Forbes were made under the assumption that defense cuts under sequestration were a foregone conclusion, essentially absolving lawmakers’ from making any attempt to avert the massive budget cuts, Little added. 

To that end, Little said Pentagon officials are expected to move “relatively quickly” on the department’s contingency plans for sequestration. 

Those plans include large-scale furloughs within the DOD civilian workforce, as well as expected reductions to a number of high-profile DOD weapons programs. 

He declined to provide details on the timing and veracity of those planned reductions to programs and personnel in preparation for sequestration. 

As DOD continues to plan for sequestration, several congressional lawmakers have already conceded the fact there is nothing Congress can do to stave off the deep DOD budget cuts from going into effect next month. 

“Sequester is going to kick in and as people see what it is … that will hopefully force us” to come up with a solution for stopping them, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) told reporters last Friday. 

He said lawmakers have “locked ourselves” into sequestration due to the impasse over how to replace the more than $1 trillion in automatic budget cuts that are coming over 10 years. “We are going to be forced into it,” McKeon said during a breakfast in Washington. 

“We have just not been able to get past the politics of it [all],” he added. 

That said, the California Republicans attempted to walk back the claims leveled against the military leaders by fellow Republicans on the panel. 

DOD leaders and military brass have done all they could to sound the alarm about the harmful effects of sequestration, McKeon said. 

Pentagon officials “understand chain of command and they [respect] that,” McKeon said. “We are all frustrated … [but] I do not think you can blame any of this on the military.”

Tags Randy Forbes Rob Bishop

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