If Congress fails to de-trigger the sequestration mechanism in budget law that will impose across-the-board defense spending cuts March 1, it could demonstrate to allies and enemies that the United States lacks the resolve, Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter said Feb. 14.
Testifying before the Senate Appropriations Committee, Carter warned of the consequences of failing to stop sequestration and how the United States could be perceived.
“The world is watching us,” he said. “Our friends and our enemies are watching us, … and they need to know that we have the political will to forestall sequestration.”
During his testimony, the deputy defense secretary was asked if countries such as Iran are watching the United States, and what signal it would send if sequestration takes effect.
“They absolutely are [watching],” Carter said. “I think it very directly shows a failure of resolve – that we’re not serious about implementing our new defense strategy.”
Carter also emphasized the importance of passing the defense appropriations bill, explaining that operating on a continuing resolution in lieu of a fiscal year budget has costs in terms of efficiency and waste on contracts with the defense industrial base.
“It’s pretty dispiriting to see the waste associated with it,” he said. “And a good measure of the impact on the industrial base is this: even if we furloughed everybody – every DOD civilian, all 800,000 of them – for the maximum we’re allowed to do it legally, we’d get $5 billion out of the $46 billion we need.
“Where is that other $41 billion going to come from?” Carter asked. “It comes from people who are not federal employees, but who work for us indirectly doing the things that we need, whether they’re maintaining our ships or building our weapons systems.”
The deputy defense secretary was also asked about DOD being granted unlimited defense proposal authority to revise defense budgets without approaching Congress, and replied that he believes that would require legislation.
“And I hope if there’s legislation in the area affecting defense, it’s one that dispels this problem, once and for all,” he added. Some reprogramming authority, he said, would help the Defense Department toward the end of the fiscal year.
“The other thing I’ll say is that, at this point in the fiscal year, with cuts of this magnitude, we’ve got to go where the money is,” he added. “So we don’t have a lot of choice in the first place.”