The PJ Tatler

Budget Battle in Congress Fuels Uncertainty at the Pentagon

The battle over sequestration in Congress has made the fiscal situation so uncertain that the Pentagon is delaying the refueling of the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln.

Lincoln was scheduled to be moved to Huntington Ingalls Industries’ (HII) Newport News Shipyard later this month to begin the 4-year refueling and complex overhaul (RCOH) of the ship.

“This delay is due to uncertainty in the Fiscal Year 2013 appropriations bill, both in the timing and funding level available for the first full year of the contract,” the message said.
“CVN-72 will remain at Norfolk Naval Base where the ships force personnel will continue to conduct routine maintenance until sufficient funding is received for the initial execution of the RCOH.”

Rep. J. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) chairman of the House Armed Services Seapower subcommittee released a statement denouncing the need for decision.

Forbes called the delay, “another example of how these reckless and irresponsible defense cuts in Washington will have a long-term impact on the Navy’s ability to perform its missions. Not only will the Lincoln be delayed in returning to the Fleet, but this decision will also affect the USS Enterprise (CVN-65) defueling, the USS George Washington (CVN-73) RCOH, and future carrier readiness.”

Sequestration would also cause the military to cut forces for the second time in two years:

The Pentagon will have to cut the size of U.S. military forces for the second time in as many years if across-the-board spending reductions of $470 billion over 10 years take effect March 1, the top U.S. military officer said on Saturday.

General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said about a third of the cuts would have to come from forces, with the remaining two-thirds taken from spending on modernization, compensation and readiness.

He noted that the Army had begun to shrink last year toward 490,000 from a high of 570,000, a result of efforts to trim $487 billion over 10 years as required by the Budget Control Act of 2011.

The Budget Control Act also envisioned the additional across-the-board cuts under a process known as sequestration. If those cuts go into effect, “the Army will have to come down again,” Dempsey said.


Dempsey is due to testify on the impact of sequestration at a hearing next week before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“What we’ve got to make clear to the Congress next week (is) that it’s not just about sequestration. We’re trying to absorb the $487 billion Budget Control Act, we’re trying to absorb the challenges that were imposed on us by the continuing resolution and we’re anticipating absorbing sequestration,” Dempsey said.

This is what happens when you use an ax where a scalpel would do fine. Sequestration is an inelegant tool to achieve the goal of getting control of the budget. At the moment, the president wants to kick the can down the road — again — and delay full sequestration by agreeing to small budget cuts and big revenue increases. Needless to say, he’s not going to get it. The question is will the GOP allow sequestration to go forward and watch as our military is decimated and force other federal departments to dramatically cut back functions like food safety inspections and workplace safety?

Some Republicans are having second thoughts. The prospect of getting blamed for the pain caused by some of these draconian cuts has some members nervous and there is genuine alarm over what the military is saying will be the impact of sequestration on its readiness. The GOP House has already proposed alternative cuts to sequestration but Obama and the Democrats have declared their ideas a dead letter.

We appear headed for another last second showdown because most Republicans don’t want sequestration any more than Democrats. We’ll know in about 3 weeks if that’s enough to avoid trouble.