Some policy train wrecks in Washington are sudden. Then there’s the catastrophe playing out in slow motion known as defense sequestration.
Barring Presidential leadership soon, the Pentagon will be walloped with another deep and disproportionate funding cut—around 9% across the board, or nearly $50 billion a year for a decade. Under last year’s Budget Control Act, President Obama and Congress need to agree on new federal savings to stop these cuts from hitting on January 2.
Like an audience at a horror movie, nearly everyone paying attention is yelling “watch out!” into a political and media void. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey calls sequestration “an unacceptable risk” that will “increase the likelihood of conflict” in a world with a weaker America. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says it’s “unworkable” and “a disaster” that will “hollow out the force and inflict severe damage to our national defense.”
The Commander in Chief? Preoccupied by his re-election campaign since, oh, last summer, Mr. Obama is missing in action. Led by California’s Buck McKeon, the House of Representatives in May adopted a plan to offset the defense and other cuts due next year with reductions elsewhere in the budget. The White House promised a veto, and Majority Leader Harry Reid won’t schedule a Senate vote.
Democrat Carl Levin and Republicans John McCain and Kelly Ayotte are floating ideas to spare the Pentagon, but they can’t overcome Presidential obstruction. Despite bipartisan pleas, the White House budget office has refused even to answer questions from Congress about how the cuts would be applied across federal agencies.