Sequestration’s shadow darkens

Reuters

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta (L) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey brief the media at the Pentagon Briefing Room in Washington, DC January 26, 2012.

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  • Should there be a sequestration delay to avoid the inconvenient timing of WARN act notifications? @MEaglen

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  • Republican position: Either find a 1 year fix to the 2012 sequestration cuts or it goes into effect Jan. 2.

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  • “Sequestration’s shadow is already bearing consequences for the Pentagon and industry.” @MEaglen

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House and Senate Republican leaders released a letter Friday — the 13th — that will effectively kill an increasingly favored option in Washington to temporarily delay the onset of sequestration (automatic budget cuts) by three or six months.

It comes on the heels of President Obama’s former campaign manager floating the idea that Senate Democrats should consider a six-month delay of sequestration in order to avoid poorly-timed WARN Act notices offered on the eve of the November elections across the country to aerospace, shipbuilding and defense workers.

The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification act requires employers of a certain size to notify their employees when mass layoffs may be coming so they can prepare. In most states, the act mandates that employers must provide at least 60 days’ notice before possible layoff notification. In New York and California, employers must provide 90 days notice, however.

Because sequestration goes into effect on January 2, 2012, these pink-slip precursors would go out around October 4 in New York and California, and November 2 in most other states.

The effect of thousands of employees receiving word that their jobs could disappear in a few short months before the election could dramatically swing the vote against incumbents, including the President.

Welcome to the politics of the WARN act. A sequestration delay had been growing in popularity to free up more time to find a comprehensive solution to the problem (including broader tax reform) and now to avoid the inconvenient timing of WARN act notifications.

The Republican position is now simple: either find a one year “fix” to the 2013 sequestration cuts — preferably soon, but in lame duck session if necessary — or else sequestration goes into effect January 2.

Republicans are not the only ones digging in their heels. In response to a letter from House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) urging Senate action to address sequestration’s impact on the U.S. military, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) sent a curt reply that chastised the chairman for urging the Senate to “renege on spending cuts.” The Majority Leader attempted to lay the blame for sequestration at the feet of Congressional Republicans, Mitt Romney, Grover Norquist, and the Tea Party.

The tone of the letter is not that of someone seemingly searching for a compromise anytime soon. Despite ongoing bipartisan talks in the Senate to find a compromise solution to sequestration in 2013, the Majority Leader seems to be preparing for a long battle.

This is bad news for the military, the defense manufacturing workforce, and the country. Sequestration’s shadow is already bearing consequences for the Pentagon and industry. The military cannot afford this magnitude of additional budget cuts, and those in uniform certainly don’t deserve to be hostages in a much larger political fight.

Mackenzie Eaglen is a resident fellow in the Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies.

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About the Author

 

Mackenzie
Eaglen
  • Mackenzie Eaglen has worked on defense issues in the U.S. Congress, both House and Senate, and at the Pentagon in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and on the Joint Staff. She specializes in defense strategy, budget, military readiness and the defense industrial base. In 2010, Ms. Eaglen served as a staff member of the congressionally mandated Quadrennial Defense Review Independent Panel, a bipartisan, blue-ribbon commission established to assess the Pentagon's major defense strategy. A prolific writer on defense related issues, she has also testified before Congress.


     


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