U.S.

August 2, 2012

Defense cuts, layoff notice dispute sets off tiff

by Donna Cassata
Associated Press

Republicans accused President Barack Obama of trying to keep middle-class Americans in the dark about whether they’ll lose their jobs from impending defense cuts as a Labor Department memo cautioning contractors about layoff notices set off political recriminations.

“The president doesn’t want people reading about pink slips in the weeks before his election, so the White House is telling people to keep the effects of these cuts a secret until after the election,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said July 31 in a speech on the Senate floor.

The memo advised federal contractors – major defense firms among them – that they do not have to warn their employees about potential layoffs from the automatic, across-the-board budget cuts that kick in Jan. 2. A law, known as the WARN Act, says those notices would have to go out 60 days in advance, arriving in mailboxes four days before the Nov. 6 election.

The guidance letter said it would be “inappropriate” for employers to send such warnings because it is still speculative if and where the $110 billion in automatic cuts might occur. About half the cuts would be in defense.

The White House did make clear July 31 that Obama would exercise his authority under last year’s budget law and exempt military personnel from any automatic defense cuts.

Pressed on the issue July 31, Labor Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Alexander said “there is an insufficient factual basis for employers to form a business judgment about whether or not their contracts will be affected.”

Democrats insist the cuts could be averted if Republicans were willing to consider tax increases on high-wage earners as part of a budget compromise.

“By refusing to replace cuts with revenues, Republicans are putting millionaires ahead of the middle class and the military,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told reporters.

In the midst of the tiff, the White House told agency officials July 31 to “continue normal spending and operations” since more than five months remain for Congress to act to avert the automatic across-the-board cuts known as “sequestration.”

Acting White House budget chief Jeffrey Zients said Obama remains confident that lawmakers will act to address the automatic spending cuts, which he described as “highly destructive.” Zients said in a memo to agency heads that the budget office will be consulting with agencies on how the spending cuts would have to be implemented if Congress and Obama together fail to stop them.

Separately, Zients sent a letter to Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, saying that the president would spare military personnel from the automatic reductions.

“This is considered to be in the national interest to safeguard the resources necessary to compensate the men and women serving to defend our nation and to maintain the force levels required for national security,” Zients wrote. “It is recognized that this action would increase the sequester in other defense programs.”

Republicans are using the looming reductions in military spending as an election-year cudgel against Obama, arguing that the commander in chief is willing to risk the nation’s security as he uses the leverage in the budget showdown with Congress. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has echoed GOP lawmakers’ criticism.

Democrats counter that Republicans who voted for the cuts are trying to wriggle out of last August’s deficit-cutting agreement and they must consider tax increases to stave off reductions. McConnell voted for those cuts, so did Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who was on a two-day tour of presidential battleground states warning about the impact of the reductions along with Sens. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

“While I’m all for tightening our belts, we shouldn’t add a national security crisis to our fiscal crisis – and that’s what these reductions would do,” Ayotte said at a stop at BAE Systems facility in Merrimack, N.H.

Ayotte and McCain warned that the cuts could cost the company 3,600 jobs.

Zients faces questioning by the House Armed Services Committee on Aug. 1 about the looming cuts and the government planning. Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter also will testify as the panel seeks answers on how the Pentagon would implement the reductions.

The committee chairman, Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., sent letters last week to Zients and Carter with a series of questions on how the cuts will be made, what accounts would be affected and how it would affect contractors.

Congess proceeded to draw up a defense spending bill for next year.

A Senate panel approved a $604 billion defense spending bill that reverses proposed Pentagon cuts in Air Force personnel and equipment. The Appropriations defense subcommittee approved the bill by voice vote July 31. The measure would provide $511 billion for the base budget and $93.3 billion for the war in Afghanistan in the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 as the committee moved money to war funding to meet the budget caps.

The bill is nearly $29 billion less than current spending.

The legislation provides $800 million to halt the Air Force’s planned cuts. In its budget proposal, the Pentagon called for a cut of 5,100 from the Air National Guard, 3,900 from active duty and 900 reservists as well as 134 aircraft. That proposal met stiff resistance from the nation’s governors and members of Congress.




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 
VG01

Space tourism rocket explodes in desert

MOJAVE, Calif. – A Virgin Galactic space tourism rocket exploded Oct. 31 during a test flight, killing a pilot aboard and seriously injuring another while scattering wreckage in Southern California’s Mojave Desert, ...
 
 

Headlines October 29, 2014

News: Unmanned rocket explodes just six seconds after taking off - A NASA rocket due to be visible across the East Coast on its way to the International Space Station has blown up on the Launchpad. IG: Former chief of wounded warrior office broke law, DOD regs - The Defense Department inspector general has recommended “corrective action”...
 
 

News Briefs October 29, 2014

F-35C makes first landing at Virginia Beach Navy base The Navy says an operational F-35C joint strike fighter has landed at Naval Air Station Oceana for the first time. Naval Air Station Oceana is the Navy’s master jet base on the East Coast. The Navy says the plane came to the Virginia Beach base Oct....
 

 

Time to turn to American technology for space launch

For the first time since the Cold War, the United States has deployed armored reinforcements to Europe. To counter Russia’s aggression, several hundred troops and 20 tanks are now in the Baltic. Yet the U.S. military is still injecting millions into the Russian military industrial complex. In late August, the United Launch Alliance – the...
 
 
Air Force photograph by Joe Davila

Boeing, Air Force demonstrate Minuteman III readiness in flight test

Air Force photograph by Joe Davila Boeing supported the launch of an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., on Sept. 23, 2014. Boeing supported the U.S. Air Force’s succ...
 
 

Pentagon going to court for refusing to release Sikorsky data

PETALUMA, Calif. – The Pentagon is refusing to release any data on any prime contractors participating in the 25-year-old Comprehensive Subcontracting Plan Test Program. The American Small Business League launched a program in 2010 to expose the fraud and abuse against small businesses the CSPTP had allowed. As a test the ASBL requested the most...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>