Panetta Clarifies Sequestration’s Immediate Implications

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told senior defense leadership on Thursday that he doesn’t expect the Pentagon’s day-to-day operations to change dramatically on Jan. 2, or immediately thereafter, should budget sequestration take effect. (Unlike Congress acts to prevent it, sequestration automatically kicks in on that day.) That’s because while sequestration would bring down the Defense Department’s budget for the remainder of Fiscal 2013, there would still be funds available and “it would not necessarily require immediate reductions in spending,” wrote Panetta in his Dec. 20 memo. This situation is different from scenarios in past years when threats of government shutdown loomed due to a lapse in appropriations, he said. Because of this, Panetta said the Pentagon “will not be executing any immediate civilian personnel actions, such as furloughs.” However, having to operate under reduced funding levels for an extended period might force the Pentagon “to consider furloughs or other actions in the future,” but only after officials examine other options to reduce costs, he stated. Sequestration, included in last year’s Budget Control Act, entails significant across-the-board spending cuts to all Pentagon accounts except for those exempted, like military personnel. (See also Getting Ready.)