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Pentagon on Furlough Notice as ‘Unengaged’ Obama Demands Tax Hikes

Closer to a "hollow force" reality: "He has certainly proven capable of leisure, now it’s time to prove that he’s capable of leadership.”

by
Bridget Johnson

Bio

February 20, 2013 - 6:47 pm

As President Obama has been focusing on the domestic side of looming mandatory sequestration cuts, warning of cuts to Head Start programs and food-safety inspections, the nation’s military readiness is on the line as the Pentagon braces for losing more than half a trillion dollars from its budget.

Obama is trying to play chicken with Republicans on the cuts, demanding more tax hikes on the wealthy even as the GOP has passed a package of cuts and reforms to stop the sequester twice in the House.

“I know Democrats in the House and in the Senate have proposed such a plan — a balanced plan, one that pairs more spending cuts with tax reform that closes special interest loopholes and makes sure that billionaires can’t pay a lower tax rate than their salary — their secretaries,” Obama said Tuesday. “And I know that Republicans have proposed some ideas, too. I have to say, though, that so far at least the ideas that the Republicans have proposed ask nothing of the wealthiest Americans or biggest corporations, so the burden is all on first responders or seniors or middle-class families.”

But as Obama gave TV interviews today and lunched with Vice President Joe Biden at the White House, across the Potomac Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned employees that the “vast majority” of the warfighting department’s civilian workforce faces administrative furloughs if the March 1 sequester goes forward.

“In the event of sequestration we will do everything we can to be able to continue to perform our core mission of providing for the security of the United States, but there is no mistaking that the rigid nature of the cuts forced upon this department, and their scale, will result in a serious erosion of readiness across the force,” Panetta said in a statement to the department.

Over at the Pentagon, Under Secretary of Defense and Chief Financial Officer Robert F. Hale said by the end of March the department could see a $46 billion reduction in the top line, including wartime accounts. In addition, the continuing resolution currently in place puts “too many dollars in the investment accounts and too few in operation and maintenance.”

“The sum of all those effects means we are seriously short of operation and maintenance funds if sequestration goes into effect and the CR [continuing resolution] stays in effect. And this will have serious adverse effects on readiness,” Hale told reporters.

If the sequestration and the CR continue through the year, he added, “we will have to cut back training, particularly for non-deployed units, and that will lead to actions such as about two-thirds of the Army combat and brigade teams being at unacceptable levels of readiness by the end of the year.”

The furloughs will exempt civilians serving in combat zones, and must include another “slightly embarrassing” exception: Senate-confirmed political appointees are exempt by law. About 50,000 foreign nationals working for the Pentagon will also be exempt. It’s not known yet if intelligence workers will be exempt.

The roughly 750,000 employees who could be subject to furloughs will receive 30-day notices in mid-March. The furloughs would amount to a 20 percent pay cut between late April and September.

“The effects of sequestration and the continuing resolution on our military personnel will be devastating. But on our civilians, it will be catastrophic. These critical members of our workforce, they work in our depots. They maintain and repair our tanks, our aircrafts, our ships,” said Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Jessica Lynn Wright.

“This is not a Beltway phenomenon. More than 80 percent of our civilians work outside of the D.C. metro area. They live and work in every state of the union.”

The state economies hardest hit would be Virginia, California, Maryland, Texas, and Georgia.

Over at the White House, press secretary Jay Carney simply blamed Republicans who have “refused to go along with the American public on the simple notion that balance is the right approach to dealing with this problem.”

“And it’s important to understand that if they hold that position and the sequester goes into effect, it will go into effect and those Americans will lose their jobs because Republicans made a choice for that to happen,” Carney said.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) slammed Obama for being “persistently unengaged, refusing to allow the Pentagon to plan for these cuts.”

“These men and women, many of whom have dedicated their careers to their country, deserve better than to be treated as pawns in a game of political brinksmanship,” McKeon said. “…As these cuts loom, the ‘balanced’ proposals President Obama has belatedly embraced to prevent sequestration include tens of billions in additional cuts to our military, cuts that could put many of these jobs in jeopardy even without the meat axe of sequestration.”

In contrast to the White House’s repeated calls for additional cuts to the military as a necessary component of a sequestration replacement, last week Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told McKeon’s committee, “What do you want your military to do? If you want it to be doing what it’s doing today, then we can’t give you another dollar.”

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said he agrees with Panetta that the cuts will be devastating to the military, but the outgoing Defense secretary has no one to blame but his boss.

“Despite dire warnings from his own Secretary of Defense for more than a year that the sequester would ‘hollow out’ our military, the president has yet to put forward a specific plan that can pass his Democratic-controlled Senate, and has exerted no pressure on the Democratic leadership of the Senate to actually pass legislation to replace the sequester he proposed,” Boehner said. “As the commander-in-chief, President Obama is ultimately responsible for our military readiness, so it’s fair to ask: what is he doing to stop his sequester that would ‘hollow out’ our Armed Forces?”

Panetta’s official notification letter to Boehner said the Pentagon remains “hopeful” that a deal can be reached to avoid sequestration, but must plan for reductions.

“Overall, sequestration will put us on a path toward a hollow force and inflict serious damage on our national security,” Panetta wrote. “…While furloughs would be disruptive and damaging to our ability to carry out the defense mission, there are no viable alternatives for the Department if sequestration actually occurs.”

Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), a member of the Armed Services Committee whose district includes Hill Air Force Base, said the current stalemate “isn’t a blame game, it’s the truth.”

“The Senate and President Obama have done nothing to stop sequestration despite the fact that there is broad bipartisan support to do so. Top military leaders and the Secretary of Defense have informed us in no uncertain terms that sequestration will have dire consequences,” Bishop said.

“As commander-in-chief, the president is responsible for ensuring the health and viability of our national defense capabilities—yet he appears unengaged. With only a few days left until sequestration, the president is reported to have been playing golf in Florida. He has certainly proven capable of leisure, now it’s time to prove that he’s capable of leadership.”

Republicans agreed that this disengagement is driven by a singular agenda.

“It is only the president’s political desire to raise taxes yet again, as a function of the sequester he proposed, while ignoring reforms to the unsustainable entitlement programs driving our debt, that is forcing this crisis to continue,” McKeon said.

Bridget Johnson is a career journalist whose news articles and opinion columns have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe. Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor at The Hill, where she wrote The World from The Hill column on foreign policy. Previously she was an opinion writer and editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. She has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, Politico and more, and has myriad television and radio credits as a commentator. Bridget is Washington Editor for PJ Media.

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Top Rated Comments   
Hobbling the military was Obamas dream in the first place.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Raise taxes or we'll shoot this dog.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Sequestration is about the funniest thing to come down the pike from DC in a very long time. None of the bad actors in this serial gaff seems to want to own up to the fact that this dirty deed got passed in the house/senate - not to mention some dimwit had to sign it into law. I know - I know - Obummer proposed this gaff - but did Boehner and Co. not see how this could be used as a bludgeoning tool when placed in the right hands (Obummer)?

This crap is getting tiresome. These idiots lurch from one panic situation to the next and never quite solve the problems that were created from this very cast of characters. I'm of a mind that these slow speed yo-you operators are missing the string in their yo-yo. And aren't aware of it. Or much else.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (16)
All Comments   (16)
Sort: Newest Oldest Top Rated
Hobbling the military was Obamas dream in the first place.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
DoD can cut a lot of money, possibly even as much as required by sequestration, without losing readiness.
But it would mean reducing bureacracy and other waste and graft, and that's something no government department or agency in history has ever been able to do.

Case in point is the Dutch military. Through 20 years of budget cuts, they've yet to scrap a single staff position, in fact the number of generals is now so high it's among the highest in the world, while the number of combat troops has been reduced to a mere few brigades and all the heavy equipment (including brand new MBTs and self propelled artillery) has been sold for scrap value to foreign nations, many of them Islamic countries like Jordan and Indonesia.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Obama is using a tried and true terrorist tactic; human shields. He should be called on it. It is NEVER about the shields.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Dream on, suckers.
Obama will lead, momentarily, when someone writes a responsible speech for him to read from a tele-prompter. Then leave for another hiatus on the Presidential EBT Card.
He doesn't have to do anything for the rest of his life, but play golf and fly around planet earth rubbing elbows with the 0.9% of the richest, most influential, currently in power.
I wonder why he never shops at "Sharper Image"?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Obama's disdain for the military continues unchecked. The degradation of the U.S. Military will require decades to repair. It seems ironic that Leon Panetta would be the most vociferous defender of our fighting forced in this administration. However, a DECENT man would have resigned as soon as he discovered what was going to happen. Why even bother to have a SecDef?
~(Ä)~
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
ALL of these circumstances occur when the military scales back its operations and ends war. ALL they same threats of military doom occured each time throughout our history.

Since the conservative movem is all about cutting the size and cost of government, the DOD is alway a practical place to begin at wars end. There are thousands upon thousands of civilian employees and private sector contractors who have NO critical roles going forward. Everything that is critical in troop strengths, mission centric units, training and equipment will be maintained regardless of any threats made.

Everything will be all okay!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I wish I were as optimistic. The cut in the already paltry number of troops is concerning.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
There are T/O strength levels for multiples of operational senario needs. You can rest assurd that these minimal and maximum T/O needs are 'strictly' adhered to. Because of the long war all the military structures and contract support are severely bloated. Every time this occurs we get months of 'political' discourse of doom for the military. The biggest hit always comes from civilian layoffs, contract services and troop reductions.

You can take a look at the Army Times and ther other services to see what economic impacts will be state by state. Sofar, Texas takes the biggest hit for the 'Army reductions' coming in at just over $2B in lost economy. It won't be pretty but we simply don't need that bloat and cost to an 'efficient' military complex!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
How pray tell do these jokers continue this charade? If you recruited politicians and bureaucrats based on their stupidity, dishonesty, ineptitude and hubris you couldn't do any worse than these weasels.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Raise taxes or we'll shoot this dog.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The longer and more completely that you can furlough the Pentagon's civilian work force, the stronger our military will be. The vast majority of these people are like viruses. They disrupt effectiveness. I worked for them for most of my career and know well whereof I speak.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I work for DOD. I would estimate that 20% of the work force does the vast majority of the real productive work. On the program that I work, we have two people in my job function. On a similar program of similar complexity, that organization has 25 people in my job function. One of senior managers of the "other" was trying to get me to come there to work and become the 26th person. The reason he needed another person? He thought the guys that he currently had were worthless. I politely declined the offer.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
As much as I despise the man, Obama has shown to be the shrewdest of politicians. He has the GOP running in circles with their tails between their legs. I was thinking this as I listened to Rush today, this man, Obama, is always several steps ahead of the republicans. What is getting tiresome is the blatant lies told from one speech to the next by Obama and no one in the MSM even questions an opposite stance the president took on sequestration last year. Simply amazing where we are in this world today!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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