Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta has clearly stated the consequences of sequestration, and the Pentagon has delivered a responsible budget request with a sound strategy to the U.S. Congress, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little told reporters May 23.
“No one, to my knowledge, has really picked apart that strategy, including on Capitol Hill,” Little said. “People seem to recognize that it’s a sound approach to dealing with what we need to do to address the national security challenges of the future.”
Little said he understands there will be disagreements between legislators and Pentagon officials over DOD’s proposed budget, and how the security strategy will be implemented.
“We recognize that,” he said. “The DOD budget is always fodder for issues that members of Congress may have. We presented a budget; we’re engaging with the Congress to defend it.”
It’s understandable that Congress “may want to make changes along the way – that’s part of the legislative process” in a democracy, Little said.
“But this is an unprecedented budget build, as far as I can tell,” he added. “And we believe that we have what we need in terms of a strong budget package to deal with a very strong strategy.”
Meanwhile, the Defense Department is confronted with the possible implementation of sequestration, a mechanism written into last year’s Budget Control Act that would trigger an additional $500 billion across-the-board cut for defense spending over the next decade if Congress doesn’t find an alternative by January.
The consequences of sequestration would be “devastating” to the Defense Department, Little said.
Yet, “there’s not a whole lot of planning [for sequestration], quite frankly, that you do, because it’s an across-the-board cut,” the press secretary said. “I’ve heard it described as a ‘haircut’ by senior department officials. There’s not a whole lot of planning we would have to do.”
The department would “take steps to deal with the consequences of sequestration, and for perspective reductions in resources, and personnel that sequestration may result in,” he added.
But at this point, Little said, steps to deal with the consequences of sequestration “haven’t started yet.”
“We’re going to have to see where the process takes us,” he said. “The focus is on trying to avoid sequestration. We do expect, at some point, to have to deal with this if it starts to look us straight in the face.”
Meanwhile, “we are affirmatively trying to hold off sequestration,” Little said. “When you’re dealing with about a half-billion dollars in cuts over 10 years, that is a daunting challenge, but we think we’ve addressed it responsibly.”