The top lawmakers on the Senate Armed Services Committee have called on the Defense Department to detail how it will cut billions more from its budget if sequestration continues into next year.
In a letter dated May 2, Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and James Inhofe (R-Okla.), the chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the committee, asked Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to provide a “package of reductions” to the department’s proposed 2014 budget.
If lawmakers and the White House fail to come to an agreement and sequestration continues into a second fiscal year, the Defense Department would be on the hook for about $52 billion in cuts.
“We believe that the identification of these specific reductions will serve both to help Congress and the department prepare for the possibility that we will be unable to avoid another round of sequestration and to show Congress and the public how unpalatable that outcome would be,” the letter stated.
Levin and Inhofe, who requested DoD provide the information by July 1, said the “concrete demonstration of the painful choices the department would have to make” could help push Congress to avoid sequestration.
The letter pointed to recent testimony from DoD leaders warning of the impact of future cuts. Army Secretary John McHugh told the committee Levin chairs that continuing sequestration into fiscal 2014 would be “devastating to the force” and pose readiness issues.
“Despite this testimony, many members of Congress and the public still seem to have the view that sequestration is an effective way to cut government spending and can be made workable simply by providing the department with additional flexibility or making minor adjustments,” Levin and Inhofe wrote in the letter. “As a result, there is an increasing risk that DoD and other federal agencies may face sequestration again in 2014.”
DoD’s budget proposal for next fiscal year, released last month, simply ignored sequestration, ostensibly in the hopes that the automatic budget cuts would be canceled or otherwise avoided by next fiscal year.
But so far this year, there has been little action in Congress on repealing or replacing the across-the-board budget cuts.