Pentagon favors reductions in force if sequester continues next year

 

The Defense Department will consider reductions in force and involuntary separations before resorting to furloughs next year if the sequester continues, according to the Pentagon’s comptroller.

“We’ll have to get smaller and we’ll have to look at some areas where we can take some more risk, get rid of some overhead and make a lot of other tough decisions, but we’re not going to have a repeat of this mess,” said Defense Under Secretary Robert Hale during a March 28 web conference hosted by the Association of Government Accountants.

The comptroller mentioned that President Obama’s 2014 budget proposal, which is expected to be released on April 10, will call for increased funding and presume that Washington can reach an agreement to repeal the government-wide spending cuts scheduled to last for the next 10 years.

Pentagon comptroller Robert F. Hale. (Chad McNeeley/Defense Department) Pentagon comptroller Robert F. Hale. (Chad McNeeley/Defense Department)

Hale said the Pentagon is “going to have to look at other longer-term choices besides furloughs” if lawmakers reject the president’s budget. “The substitute may be reductions on force and involuntary separations, unfortunately, but we want to start doing this with more of a scalpel and less of a meat axe,” he said.

Congress and the president recently approved a short-term budget that shifted funding for certain agencies to blunt the impacts of the automatic spending cuts. Since then, the Defense Department has lowered its projected cost-saving target from $46 billion to $41 billion and reduced its planned sequester furloughs from 22 days to 14 day for the remainder of the fiscal year.

Hale also indicated that the Pentagon plans to ask for base realignments and closures, according to Federal News Radio, which first reported on the web conference. Lawmakers last year rejected such proposals.

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Josh Hicks covers Maryland politics and government. He previously anchored the Post’s Federal Eye blog, focusing on federal accountability and workforce issues.

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