April 03, 2012

Sequestration Is Irresponsible

By Travis Sharp

Sequestration is an irresponsible way to reduce defense spending. The sudden and inflexible process for implementing cuts under sequestration will unnecessarily damage American defense capabilities, making it harder for the U.S. military to pursue its long-standing and generally successful strategy of global engagement. Sequestration already has failed to achieve its sole purpose, which was to encourage the deficit reduction "super committee" to compromise. For these reasons, Congress should pass bipartisan legislation to repeal sequestration as soon as possible, and President Obama should sign it.

Sequestration would push the defense budget off a cliff in 2013 by requiring the Pentagon's annual base budget, which excludes war costs, to be cut from about $530 billion to $472 billion, an 11 percent real reduction that DOD must implement in a matter of months. Cutting this much so suddenly would inhibit DOD from implementing cuts flexibly and strategically over the next decade.

Sequestration may require DOD to allocate cuts in equal percentages to every weapons system, research and development initiative, and training program regardless of its importance to U.S. security. For example, the training budget for special-operations forces, such as those responsible for killing Osama bin Laden, would be cut by the same percentage as the training budget for military bands. With all due respect to our military musicians, this is a prescription for mindless slashing, not strategic choices that preserve important programs.

Leading defense budget experts almost universally agree that a more gradual and flexible process is far better than the sudden, inflexible cuts built into sequestration. Even independent analysts who favor steeper military budget reductions argue that sequestration is a suboptimal way to downsize defense spending.

Congress and President Obama should repeal sequestration and replace it with a bipartisan process to negotiate a comprehensive deficit-reduction package that includes revenue, discretionary spending, and entitlements. This type of process has failed before and probably will not make much progress during a presidential election year. Nevertheless, it is the most responsible framework for pursuing changes to federal budgetary priorities.

At this important moment of transition for the U.S. military, which has sacrificed so much over the past decade, American political leaders need to set aside their ideological differences on this issue for the good of the nation.


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