In anticipation of the pending sequestration cuts slated to go into effect on March 1, the Pentagon recently announced that it has begun laying off many of its 46,000 temporary and contract workers, as well as delaying aircraft and ship maintenance.
Even more jarring was the news that the Pentagon will inform Congress of its plans to furlough most of its full-time civilian employees, possibly asking them to take one day off per week.
On January 10, outgoing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said, “Regardless of what Congress does or fails to do, we still have an obligation to protect this country. So for that reason, I’ve asked the military services and the other components to immediately begin implementing prudent measures that will help mitigate our budget risk. For now, I’ve made clear that these actions must be reversible to the extent feasible and must minimize harmful effects on readiness. But we really have no choice but to prepare for the worst.”
It occurs to us here at FedPulse that in this country’s recent history we have had the “War on Terror” and the “War on Drugs” – you can fill in the blanks for other examples. Now we have a new war: the “War on Sequestration.” And it looks like our national security might be the first casualty of this new war.
While it is no surprise that the Department of Defense is preparing for the worst, we are sorry to be in this new era of “War on Sequestration,” a reduction in resources that protect citizens and troops, after so much has been spent to ramp up the military during the past decade.
Panetta said, “[D]espite a lot of very severe budget pressures … we need to maintain … the world’s most powerful and ready force to deal with the security challenges that we’re going to confront in the 21st century.” Yet in those same remarks he also stated that “additional meat-axe cuts as a result of sequestration … will seriously threaten our ability to implement [our broader] strategy.”
Of course, a fiscally sound government should be applauded. Yet over the past decade, we have invested in the most cutting-edge solutions to meet our national security mission and goals. Any compromise of this – in the name of sequestration – would only jeopardize the substantial financial and time resources already invested into making us the most technologically advanced military.
And let’s not forget the broader impact of the sequester on an already shaky economic recovery from a long-standing recession; particularly how these cuts will affect the Washington, DC metropolitan area, which by some estimates could lose 155,000 jobs.
Last year’s widely-accepted report by George Mason University professor Dr. Stephen S. Fuller predicted:
“As currently formulated, the automatic spending cuts affecting DOD and non-DOD agencies’ discretionary spending authorities beginning January 2, 2013 will:
- Reduce the nation’s GDP by $215 billion;
- Decrease personal earnings of the workforce by $109.4 billion; and,
- Cost the U.S. economy 2.14 million jobs.
“As a consequence of sequestration, GDP growth in 2013 will be reduced by two-thirds and unemployment will increase by as much as 1.5 percentage points, raising the current national rate above 9 percent. These are the easily measured impacts.”
Since agencies are now working to implement these cuts, which are still on the board for March 1, significant impact on national security and the business of government remains a real concern until Congress and the Obama administration answer the sequestration question and solve the debt crisis.