It has become almost an inside joke within the Pentagon press corps: for months, a member of the media has asked during briefings if the Defense Department is planning for the half-trillion dollars of sequester budget reductions set to take effect at the beginning of next year, and for months the answer has been “no, not yet.”
But it appears that top Pentagon leaders have arrived at the bridge they weren’t going to cross until they got to it.
On Wednesday afternoon, Pentagon spokesman George Little tweeted, “@DeptofDefense is in consultations with OMB to start internal planning for sequestration–something we strongly hope is avoided ASAP.”
During a press availability at the Pentagon, Little told reporters that DoD was just beginning to work with the Office of Management and Budget to iron out the details of sequestration.
“Naturally, we hope very much that sequestration will be avoided,” he said, according to American Forces Press Service reports. “We don???t want to go off the fiscal cliff.???
The real disaster inherent in the sequester, experts have said, is the inflexibility with which spending accounts will be slashed and the way it invalidates strategy and planning in making reductions. When taken, the cuts would delay new construction projects and acquisitions, trim down the size of the force and fleet, and according to Marine Corps assistant commandant Gen. Joseph Dunford, leave the corps unable to respond to even one major defense or domestic contingency.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has made no secret about his disgust with the sequester mechanism, telling troops it was “stupid” policy and averring this fall that he would accept “whatever the hell” alternative Congress could come up with to avoid it.
President Barack Obama said dismissively during the debates that the sequester “will not happen,” but never backed up his remark.
Now that the Pentagon has begun planning for the cutbacks in absence of a valid alternative plan from Congress, maybe the president will eat his words.