Sequestration delayed for 2 months, DOD still vulnerable

The bipartisan agreement hammered out by lawmakers at the last minute to avert sequestration delays the inevitable for two months.

The deal between the White House and Congress hammered out New Year's Eve to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff has tempoarily pushed back the deadline for sequestration, but if an agreement is not reached by a new deadline the result might be even more devastating for military programs, reports Army Times.

The bipartisan American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 postpones until March 1 the across-the-board budget cuts that were supposed to be triggered Jan. 2, the story said.

Furthermore, the agreement fails to address the reality that federal agencies will run out of money on March 27 when a temporary funding bill expires, the story said.

The deal offsets the two-month sequester delay with $24 billion in savings, half achieved through a tax adjustment and the other half achieved through discretionary spending cuts, Politico reports. Of those, only about $2 billion would come from DOD and other security agencies during the current fiscal year, the media outlet said, citing an analysis by the Stimson Center.

Because of this, the legislation leaves the Defense Department at risk of being forced to cut $57 billion to $63 billion from the 2013 budget while also giving them less time, which means less flexibility, in making the cuts, Army Times said.

The Defense Department previously had eight months to make a 9.4 percent reduction in all programs other than military personnel, which are exempt from 2013 cuts under waiver authority being used by the president, the story said. Delaying sequestration’s target date to March 1 leaves the DOD vulnerable to the same degree of cuts but with just six months to make them if sequestration were to occur.

“Rather than shield a wartime military from further reductions, this deal leaves the force vulnerable to sequestration’s devastating and arbitrary cuts and it leaves Congress and the President with much work to do to end the crisis,” said House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.).

Sequestration should be averted permanently and not simply delayed in two-month or similar intervals, DOD officials said in reaction to the bipartisan agreeement in an Armed Forces Press Service story.

"The specter of sequestration -- of guns to the head -- none of that is anything that we welcome," said Pentagon Press Secretary George Little. "We hope to avoid it at all costs.”

The department was preparing for the worst, Little said. If sequestration was triggered, he said, DOD would try to make monetary reductions via furloughs rather than in reductions in force.

“We were prepared to do the prudent thing and tell our civilian workforce that many of them might face some kind of furlough if sequestration had taken effect,” Little said.