Procrastination as a military strategy
March 1st, 2012
12:12 PM ET

Procrastination as a military strategy

By Adam Levine

It's the "meat ax" hanging over the Pentagon, to borrow a colorful phrase from Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. It's so fearsome it could end America's position as a global power, said the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. So what is the Department of Defense doing about this incredible threat? Hoping it goes away.

As unlikely as it sounds, defense officials insist that aside from trying to convince Congress to stop it, the Pentagon is not planning for a possible $500 billion more in imposed cuts to the defense budget over the next decade that could begin to take effect at the end of the year. That would be on top of the half a billion dollars it is already planning to cut back over the next ten year.

The cuts, referred to as sequestration, are a result of the inability of Congress and the president to agree on a deficit reduction plan. Some workarounds have been proposed to limit the impact on the military but the White House has dismissed those as avoiding actual deficit reduction and want the threat of the trigger to remain in the hopes everyone will come to their senses and agree on a reduction plan.

Still, hoping politicians come to their senses hardly seems like a winning strategy.  So why isn't the Pentagon getting ready for what Chairman Martin Dempsey says is an "unacceptable risks to our national security"?  Because they were told not to, Panetta told the House Committee on the Budget this week.

Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kansas, asked the secretary of defense whether they were ordered not to by the president. Below, the exchange about why the Obama administration thinks not thinking about it is the best way forward:

HUELSKAMP: Secretary Panetta, you talked earlier (inaudible) about the sequester. And of course the president of the United States did sign that deal that included that, yet there's no provisions in your budget to implement a sequester.

Did the president direct you to ignore that particular law?

PANETTA: The position of OMB was that we are not to plan for sequester at this time. And that's the direction we've been given and that's what we're doing.

HUELSKAMP: Is that normal, to simply ignore a law that could have pretty drastic consequences, by refusing to plan for that law? PANETTA: Well, I mean, as we pointed out, this is pretty unusual, to have a sequester mechanism. I mean, the point of it from the very beginning was to be so drastic and so insane that it would force the Congress to do what's right and come up with the deficit reduction package. That was - that's the whole purpose of sequester. It wasn't - I don't think Congress intended sequester to actually happen, to be truthful.

HUELSKAMP: Well, yeah. But, again, Mr. Secretary...

PANETTA: I mean, it was supposed to be a gun at your head.

HUELSKAMP: ... I asked the question, did the president direct you to ignore the sequester or...

PANETTA: The president...


HUELSKAMP: ... do that yourself?

PANETTA: The president didn't direct me. We basically got directions from OMB to basically not plan for sequester, particularly after coming up with $500 billion in deficit reduction.

HUELSKAMP: When would you plan to plan for the sequester, indeed, if the president - and the president's involved here. It's not just Congress, obviously. The president would have to sign a plan that would suspend that. You just hoping that that will never happen? I mean, is that what we're doing here?

PANETTA: Well, I would - I would hope that you would hope it would never happen.

HUELSKAMP: OK. I appreciate the - there is no answer. Apparently there is no plan for that. The law is very clear, whether the president liked it or not. He signed it, and on recommendation, I presume, of the advisers.

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Filed under: Budget • Congress • Defense Spending • Dempsey • Military • Panetta
soundoff (19 Responses)
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  4. Sally Develbiss

    January 28, 2021 at 10:13 pm | Reply
  5. Alvin Machala

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    July 1, 2012 at 1:59 am | Reply

    Obama's way of doing thing is wait and blame others

    March 6, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Reply
  8. Louise Malbon-Reddix

    So the plan is to plan not to make a plan and to plan not to make a plan?

    March 2, 2012 at 9:28 pm | Reply
  9. tedz

    bush left destroyed our economy, obama will destroy our military might, and global friendships.

    March 1, 2012 at 5:54 pm | Reply

    incredible empty treat!

    March 1, 2012 at 5:14 pm | Reply
  11. RetiredVet

    I'm with you on that Todd, if the president has term limits, then why doesn't Congress, Senate and the Supreme Court have term limits. The do nothing Congress, Senate and Supreme court forgot about the first sentence in the Constitution "WE THE PEOPLE", instead their way of thinking is what is in it for me. That is why this country which I sacrificed 20 years in the US Navy has been going downhill. Veterans shouldn't have to fight for our benefits that WE SACRIFICED FOR, not some egotistical fat cat politician that didn't sacrifice ANYTHING!

    March 1, 2012 at 4:09 pm | Reply
    • Todd in Iowa

      Retired, I am not talking about terms... I am talking fired. Figure this. My military service is not a subject i would like to discuss because Chapter 10 dont go far. But speakinig about the Miliitary with so much going on, and the President wants to cut back on our military is just wrong.

      There is another solution.. The starting freshman in Congress, recieves a pay check of 165k. Why do we need so many, 435 house seats? Why do we need 100 senate seats. there are only 50 states. Wanna save some tax dollars? Start firing Congressmen, and their staff... Government officials dont do anything for "We the People"..

      March 1, 2012 at 6:26 pm | Reply
      • RetiredVet

        I totally agree with you Todd, firing there asses for not doing the job we elected them to do would be great for this country, as well as cutting down the Senate and House seats.A starting Congressional freshmen shouldn't be making 165K, 60K is more like it. We need to start firing some politicians,where is Donald Trump?

        March 2, 2012 at 11:21 am |
  12. Real American Patriot from Idaho

    We need to bomb israel and jail every u.s. citizen with a dual american and israeli citizenship. They are traitors to America. zionists in America are loyal only to the dirty evil zionists in tel-aviv.

    Death to israel and the dirty evil zionists!

    Traitors should be shot!!!!

    March 1, 2012 at 3:49 pm | Reply
  13. Todd in Iowa

    instead of cutting our military.. i think its time to redraw our states. not literally. but the districts and the delegates that are taking away taxes. Our government fails to act to make a budget. well let them budget on unemployment like so many other Americans have had to do... Let them feel the heat of banks foreclosiing on their houses and their cars. how do we do this? it takes a little bit of power to outs a politician. Congress doesnt want to do anything about the terror plots that have arisin in New York and surrounding areas. Congress wants to hand guns to the Mexican Cartels.
    Congress wants to implicate 44,000 new laws. Congress wants to give them selves bonuses. They want raises. What have they done to earn that? nothing. so its time to get rid of the 435 House seats, and the 100 senate seats.
    it only takes 3 to make a deciding fact. but it takes the United States to stand as a whole to reduce the pain that people are feeling here and abroad.

    March 1, 2012 at 3:18 pm | Reply

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