Escaping Sequestration

Top Pentagon officials and defense industry executives have said budget sequestration would have a devastating impact on US national security. However, there are a few critical defense areas that would escape sequestration’s wrath, according to Todd Harrison, senior fellow for defense budget studies at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. First, there would be no base closures, Harrison told reporters during an Aug. 24 briefing. In fact, the Budget Control Act’s sequestration clause prohibits the closure of any military installation that employs at least 300 people until a detailed cost and environmental analysis is completed and congressional defense overseers approve the closure, he said. Second, military personnel would not receive any “pink slips,” said Harrison. President Obama already has stated that military personnel accounts would be exempt if sequestration is implemented in January. However, military healthcare, which is primarily funded through the Pentagon’s operations and maintenance accounts, would face cuts, he noted. Third among the exemptions, there would be no reduction in pay for military personnel, said Harrison. Beyond that, no programs would be immediately terminated, and sequestration would not affect contracts for which the Pentagon has already obligated the funding, he said. (See also CSBA backgrounder brief.)