DoD officials warn of damaging effects from likely sequestration in FY2014

Friday, September 6th, 2013

The budgetary situation in FY2014, driven by sequestration, will be very grim according to DoD civilian and military leaders.

With the prospect of an agreement between the White House and Congress to alleviate the effects of sequestration in considerable doubt, it appears highly probable that the FY2014 defense budget could experience another $52 billion cut. The sequester cut to the DoD budget is $37 billion in FY2013.

In July, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel told Congress that DoD would face a series of bad choices if forced to implement sequestration in FY2014. Hagel warned the Senate Armed Services Committee that sequestration would produce a reduction in “the size, readiness and technological superiority of our military” and cause a “virtual halt to military modernization.” He also indicated that the sequester could force DoD to consider reductions-in-force to produce the necessary cuts in civilian personnel costs.

Because the president has exempted military personnel accounts from the effects of a possible sequestration in FY2014, cuts to other accounts would have to be increased if sequestration went into effect. This would worsen the detrimental effects on readiness and modernization, according to administration officials.

DoD Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics Frank Kendall told personnel at the Patuxent Naval Air Station this week that he thinks sequestration will happen in FY2014 and that DoD “will start assuming sequestration from Day One [October 1, 2013].” Because military personnel accounts will be exempted, Kendall said he expects the civilian workforce, contractors, and the investment accounts to bear the brunt of the cuts. He stressed that he hopes DoD can avoid furloughs and reductions-in-force in FY2014, but cautioned that they may be necessary.

Another DoD acquisition official, Elana Broitman, acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Manufacturing and Industrial Base Policy echoed Kendall’s comments. Speaking to a defense cooperation conference in Washington, Broitman said sequestration will not go away in the near future. Telling her audience that sequestration will affect defense contractors and the industrial base as well as other accounts, she said “we don’t have a choice but to take a hard look at investments.” She warned that DoD must carefully consider how to make cuts to defense-related research when implementing sequestration, otherwise “we jeopardize lives, and the longer-term security interests” of the U.S. and its allies.

Chief of Naval Operations ADM Jonathan Greenert said this week that it would take the Navy years to recover from the effects of sequestration and operating under continuing resolutions (CRs). Sequestration would force the Navy to take a cut of $14 billion, he said, which could force the Navy to cancel one-half of its ship availability. In addition, he said the Navy would have to “cancel a lot of aircraft availabilities,” reduce training for non-deployed personnel, and cut the aircraft and shipbuilding programs. “I would see the loss of a littoral combat ship, an afloat-forward staging base and advanced procurement for a Virginia-class submarine and a carrier overhaul.” Arguing for more reprogramming authority from Congress if sequestration is implemented, Greenert said the Navy could lose a submarine and a destroyer if it could not move money from lower priority programs to those accounts. He also the Navy could lose about 25 new aircraft in FY2014.

With the beginning of FY2014 less than four weeks away, final congressional action on FY2014 appropriations bills is not even close and talks on a sequester fix appear to have been suspended. Congress will spend most of its time next week debating and voting on the administration’s proposal to take action against Syria for using chemical weapons. Also, Congress will have to deal with a possible breach of the debt ceiling in October or November.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has already said he expects the House to pass a Continuing Resolution (CR) soon to avoid a government shutdown while Congress tries to finish action on FY2014 appropriations. So, it appears highly likely that sequestration will go into effect, at least for a while.

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