Troops and Pentagon civilians face fall from "fiscal cliff"
January 1st, 2013
12:01 AM ET

Troops and Pentagon civilians face fall from "fiscal cliff"

By Mike Mount

Hundreds of thousands of Defense Department civilian employees could receive mandatory unpaid leave notices now that the U.S. government has gone over the fiscal cliff while uniformed troops would be shielded from pay cuts and layoffs for a year, defense officials said.

Congress missed its midnight Monday deadline to avert the automatic tax increases and spending cuts that comprise the cliff, but there was a possibility the situation could be resolved on Tuesday.

Still, if there is no resolution and heavy military and domestic spending cuts take effect, the Defense Department has plans to “issue notices to 800,000 civilian employees of the department that furloughs are almost certain to occur," a senior Pentagon official said.

Defense officials said not all of those employees would be hit by furloughs, if they do occur, but they would all have to be notified that there was a possibility they may have to stop work at some point.

The Pentagon's share of budget cuts under the fiscal cliff would be $500 billion – about half the government-wide total – over the next decade.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has tried to ease fears of massive cuts immediately.

"These cuts, while significant and harmful to our collective mission as an agency, would not necessarily require immediate reductions in spending," Panetta said in a memo to Defense Department employees last week.

Panetta tried to reassure the troops that President Barack Obama “indicated his intent to exercise his legal authority to exempt military personnel" from any mandatory cuts.

Troops would be protected through the end of the current fiscal year next September from pay freezes or reduction in numbers. They would not be protected in the 2014 fiscal year and beyond, according to defense officials.

But Panetta was less reassuring about the possibility of mandatory unpaid leave for the civilian employees.

"Should we have to operate under reduced funding levels for an extended period of time, we may have to consider furloughs or other actions in the future," he said.

While there is no direct timetable when the unpaid leave orders could be issued, a defense official said it would be at least "several months" before any civilian employees would be ordered not to work.

"They (the furlough's) wouldn't happen immediately but would be phased in over time and could mean at least three weeks of furloughs for these personnel," according to the defense official with direct knowledge of Pentagon planning.

The Pentagon has 30 days from when budget cuts take effect on Wednesday to develop a spending plan that would incorporate the mandatory 12% reduction in the remainder of the Pentagon's budget for this fiscal year.

Until the number-crunchers develop that plan, it is unclear exactly how programs will be affected by any cuts, according to defense officials.

The Pentagon does know how it will cover the cost of the ongoing war in Afghanistan. While the cost of that war will be affected by the mandatory cuts, Pentagon officials have said that the $7.5 billion per month cost would be picked up by pulling money from operations and maintenance accounts.

But the officials said doing that would impact just about everything, from cutting the grass at domestic military bases to reducing training and weapons maintenance.

"Those kind of cuts would reduce the readiness of units that could eventually be called up to deploy," according to a defense official with direct knowledge of budget planning.

The cuts for 2013 could also reduce training and exercises with international forces, extend the amount of time it takes for medical reimbursement of military family members, and potentially cut medical benefits for military retirees, according to defense officials.

Other accounts that would be hit include procurement and research accounts, reducing the amount of money available to purchase new weapons systems or to start new development programs.

The defense industry is watching closely as billions of dollars of existing contracts could be affected.

Daniel Stohr, a spokesman for the Aerospace Industries Association which represents hundreds of military contractors, said it was unclear how contracts will be affected over the coming months as the Pentagon works through the sequestration process.

Absent a resolution on taxes and spending, defense officials have said lawmakers could always find a way in coming days to adjust Pentagon funding as members of Congress have said they do not want to see cuts in the defense budget.

soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. Hide Behind

    Phillipines due to receive 35,000 more military to add to our slightly under 16,000
    Naval. % Marine & ?Special Units? Already there.
    The two new militarybases breaking ground even now most likely will also house Austrailian Marines and Naval along with their spec forces.
    While old Blackwater before breakup was worlds largest merc force under US payroll they are now eclipsed by the gorces known as African Union that is 95% Funded out of miselsneous cultural aid and were trained primarily MPRI. And paid out of State Dept funds.
    The game is complicated but readble.
    HOWS THIS for a foreign think tanks estimate of US military off budget Black Ops projects; 1.4 trillion and employs some 1.4 million foreign and dmestic work force right hete in states.

    January 1, 2013 at 11:57 pm | Reply
  2. Hide Behind

    The force structure of our military is not the same as in years past, not even as it was under Bush.
    The US army was almost a complete failure in Iraq and Afghanistan and proved only capable of guard duty and clean up behind Marines.
    Africa will receive 35 seperate readiness task forces in 35 nations. Each with support staff and civilian contractor building bases and helping train those nations military as grunts for our strike forces use..
    The VTOL. Planes are sceduled to be based upon Korean and Okinawan Island chain in series of bases. Complete with small unit readi forces and some lt naval as well.
    US Canada new 10 year joint command¿¿ to be built all along Canadas norther territories.
    This is not your red neck flag waving gungho movie. Script but a thoroughly modern military. Geared for asymetrical warfare at any time and everyplace; even hrre in the homeland.

    January 1, 2013 at 11:43 pm | Reply
  3. hfdrtujfthjfg

    YOU WILL DO THE BIDDING OF CHINA BECAUSE THEY ARE THE BIG DOG AND YOU WILL STAND GAURD OVER GOLD MINES OR WHATEVER WHILE THE CHINESE RAPE THE LAND RIGHT OUT FROM UNDER THE LOCALS WHO WILL HAVE NO RIGHTS.

    January 1, 2013 at 11:16 pm | Reply
  4. hfdrtujfthjfg

    EVENTUALY YOU WILL BE ABLE TO BE IN BOTH MILITARYS AND COLLECT BOTH PRIVET SECTOR SIZED MILITARY PAYCHECKS ONE FROM THE US AND ANOTHER FROM CHINA.

    January 1, 2013 at 11:13 pm | Reply
  5. hfdrtujfthjfg

    CHINAS COMMUNIST PARTY WILL RULE THE WORLD.

    January 1, 2013 at 11:11 pm | Reply
    • Nick from Toronto, Canada

      it's obvious from your uniformed and idiotic post you are a complete idiot who needs to go back to grade school and educate yourself.

      January 2, 2013 at 4:23 pm | Reply
      • BillKristolsPolyp-filledAnus

        I love how Canadians feel the need to tell everyone that they're an insignificant people from an insignificant country. No one cares.

        January 6, 2013 at 1:21 am |
  6. hfdrtujfthjfg

    IF CHINA WAS SMART THEY WOULD START SPENDING ALL OF TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS THAT US CONGRESS GIVES THEM AND MAKE A MILITARY TWICE THE SIZE OF THE US. ITS ONLY FAIR.

    January 1, 2013 at 11:09 pm | Reply
  7. hfdrtujfthjfg

    SEE THE MILITARY BUDGET WAS JUST DOUBLED YET AGAIN.

    January 1, 2013 at 11:06 pm | Reply
  8. utrdghutfhutr

    (...)THERE ARE NO PROBLEMS AND NO ONE IS RESPONSABLE FOR ANYTHING EVER(...)

    January 1, 2013 at 7:28 pm | Reply
  9. Amit-Atlanta-USA.

    In comparison to what both our poor and elderly people will go through, this is but a drop in the bucket! Even then, most of these people will get their jobs back as the right-wingers in Washington will somehow worm their way around this!

    January 1, 2013 at 5:26 pm | Reply
    • wjmccartan

      Thank you, Amit. How true that is!!!!!!

      January 1, 2013 at 5:38 pm | Reply
      • wjmccartan

        Well you piece of dung I thought I might find you using my name again, tell me does your profit Mohammed still tell stories of how he liked to do sheep, and I know he had fun with goats, he could get a good grip of their horns so they couldn't get away. Al la la la Al la la la Al la la la, try something new next time goatboy.

        January 1, 2013 at 8:03 pm |
  10. James L.

    The joke is on the American people by the Pentagon. The military gets 56% of all tax dollars and has never been audited. Until we know , for certain, where our tax dollars disappear into the Pentagon, is going, all this whining and tearful complaining by the top brass is BS.

    January 1, 2013 at 3:24 pm | Reply
    • Carlson

      Thank you, James L. You said it all!

      January 1, 2013 at 4:49 pm | Reply
    • NNN

      Not to worry, they're going to get what they've got coming to them eventually. The fiscal situation is getting worse by the minute and the latest legislation is doing nothing to fix the problem.

      January 2, 2013 at 3:19 am | Reply
  11. Rick Buggy's Rants & Ravings

    Reblogged this on Rick Buggy's Rants & Ravings and commented:
    Obama is making a joke of America! What does the rest of the world think about this? What about the troops in the field? Unbelievable!

    January 1, 2013 at 12:57 pm | Reply
    • orphicdragon

      Stop spamming your crappy blog.

      If you want somebody to give a crud about your idiotic rambling pick up the phone and call your mommy.

      January 1, 2013 at 1:23 pm | Reply
  12. Rick Buggy's Rants & Ravings

    What a joke Obama is making of America!

    January 1, 2013 at 12:55 pm | Reply

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