On Friday afternoon with little fanfare the sequestration report was released. Unfortunately, the anxiously anticipated report told us what we already knew—if sequestration happens, it will be deeply destructive and tie the hands of our military.
The overview: There would be a 9.4 percent cut to most defense programs — except those exempted in the sequestration law — and a 10 percent cut to a handful of other Pentagon accounts that are not subject to annual congressional appropriations. Medicare would get hit with a 2 percent cut, while domestic discretionary programs — such as scientific grants and Education Department programs — would be subject to 8.2 percent cuts. Most mandatory domestic programs — those that are funded based on eligibility — would be slashed by 7.6 percent.
What we need is a serious discussion on reform, now, before this hits. Any Pentagon spending reform should be targeted and carefully consider both strategic security needs and debt reduction; sequestration does neither. It’s all of the bitter, and none of the medicine.
Awaiting the Sequestration Transparency Report
Last week we checked in on the progress of the Obama administration in providing Congress with a detailed accounting of proposed budget cuts to take place in January 2013 under the “sequestration” process. The report was required by the Sequestration Transparency Act, which passed Congress by overwhelming bipartisan majorities earlier this summer.
By statute, that report was due on August 7, which was last Friday. But President Obama’s team at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) punted, saying they wouldn’t have anything until this week.
Over at the indispensable Politico “Morning Defense” round-up, you’ll find some expert commentary forecasting what might be in the report:
According to Todd Harrison, a defense expert at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, OMB could take one of three routes:
– First, today’s report could do nothing more than read back the relevant portions of the Budget Control Act, the law passed last summer that put sequestration in place. OMB might simply say, “Here’s an explanation of the law you passed,” Harrison said. “That would be a legitimate response.”
– Second, OMB could include estimations of the effects sequestration would have on various items in the federal budget — but the agency would have to use assumed 2013 funding levels, since Congress has yet to pass a spending plan for the next fiscal year.
– Third, OMB could take it a step further and try to describe the impacts on specific programs. For example, OMB could explain how sequestration would affect the number of fighter jets the Air Force would be able to buy. “But that’s just layering assumptions on assumptions,” Harrison said. “I don’t think they’ll take that route.”
We’re eagerly keeping an eye out for the report. Will the Obama administration respect the spirit of the law and provide detailed accounting of how the sequestration cuts will be distributed, or will they delay yet again? We’ll see.
Pete Hegseth is the CEO of Concerned Veterans for America, and the former executive director of Vets for Freedom. Pete is an infantry officer in the Army National Guard, and has served tours in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Guantanamo Bay.