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Sequestration Budget Crisis Could Have Been Mitigated

January 29, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman
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The catastrophic budget cuts facing the U.S. Defense Department will be worse than need be because leading administration officials did not seem to believe they actually would come to pass, according to some experts on a panel at AFCEA/USNI West 2013 in San Diego. As a result, more thoughtful solutions to the budget crisis must give way to rapid and severe reductions over a short period of time.

Kori Schake, a research fellow with the Hoover Institution, pulled no punches in her depiction of the run-up to the sequestration. Commenting on the panel theme, which referred to a ticking budget clock, she said, “If the clock is ticking, then the bomb is about to go off.”

Declaring that the Defense Department has been in denial for months about the sequestration taking place, she stated that administration officials made a set of choices that has aggravated it. Their choices in the recently published defense strategy are “unexecutable,” she said. The Defense Department should develop a budget across the coming decade that would buy time to realize savings and cost reductions over that period—not all at once, which is what the department is facing now.

Ronald O’Rourke, a specialist in naval affairs with the Congressional Research Service, pointed out that what makes the looming sequestration cuts so difficult is their abruptness. The defense budget faces an immediate 8-9 percent reduction five months into a fiscal year. Accordingly, the effect is greater because those cuts must be enacted over just seven months.

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