The Pentagon avoided sequestration – a series of across-the-board budget cuts – when Congress took action toward the end of 2012, but the move only delayed the cuts to March 1. Now, as that deadline looms once again, the Department of Defense (DOD) has to grapple with potential budget constraints in the near future. On Wednesday it was revealed that outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta will recommend cutting pay to active duty troops, reports CNN.
“Uncertainties” cause cuts
While sequestration has yet to take effect, and it’s unclear if it will, Panetta’s decision is indicative of the growing uncertainty surrounding the military budget, one Pentagon official told CNN. Though it has yet to be officially announced, the cut in pay would come in the form of lowering the annual raise, which is usually due to a cost of living adjustment. Under the new plan, that annual increase would shrink from about 1.7 percent to just 1 percent.
A politically motivated move
The announcement may be one of the last acts of Panetta’s tenure as Secretary of Defense, as he is slated to be replaced by former Senator Chuck Hagel in the coming days. Not only that, but it may be one of his smartest moves as well. Analysts say that the proposed cut in pay will be so unpopular that it will put pressure on Congress to act more quickly to help avoid sequestration.
“It’s a smart move, it puts it in Congress’ hands,” a military officer told CNN.
More than just military pay
Sequestration would trigger additional budget cuts of about $500 billion, which would impact significantly more than the pay going to active duty troops. It would also harm the readiness of troops, especially since it could cause delays to brigade combat teams’ (BCT) training, according to a memo obtained by Defense News.
“With the exception of one BCT, all non-deploying or non-forward stationed units (78 percent of all brigade combat teams) will incur several months delay for required training to meet [combatant commander] requirements,” the memo said.
With the March 1 deadline quickly approaching, President Barack Obama has called on Congress to push it back once more. Speaking to reporters earlier this week, he said that if lawmakers are not able to reach a compromise on reducing the deficit, they should pass a smaller bill to stave off sequestration, according to CBS News.