by Catherine McCarthy
These are the words that have come to define what is known as “Sequestration.” And it’s a feature, not a bug. Sequestration, part of the Budget Control Act of 2011, was intended to give a very real incentive to Congress to reduce the annual deficit by $1.2 billion by the end of 2012. If they failed to do so, and to date they have, a very unwieldy axe was to be taken to the National Security budget. It was meant to produce such an undesirable result that Congress would be loathe to not come up with something, anything, to prevent it from taking effect.
These automatic cuts are scheduled to occur on March 1after an 11th hour reprieve at the beginning of the year. It was frustrating this morning to hear our local news refer to that as “next month.” As of the writing of this blog, next month is actually next week.
This is going to hurt.
It will hurt our military families, who already shoulder a heavy burden, emotionally and financially. Longer deployments, no ability to plan, a life of limbo, more stress. Base services potentially cut, curtailed or eliminated, like commissaries, exchanges, Family Service Centers, gyms, etc. Many of those positions are held by military spouses, and others are employed by contractors and agencies that support our military.
With maintenance, training and equipment being sidelined, it could also cost lives.
It will hurt our veterans. More than two out of five of the approximately 800,000 Department of Defense employees facing furloughs are veterans. Unemployment for 18-24 year old veterans was over 20 percent for 2012. Still more are employed by private industries who facilitate the readiness and capability of our armed services, and who are currently looking at their bottom line and who may be sent a layoff notice.
The impact won’t just be immediate in nature. If, and when, we can turn it around, will the skilled workers still be there? And in the years to come, will we experience the talent drain and beat feet that we did in the 1990s? It takes years to rebuild from that. And a great deal of money.
It will hurt us all. Congressional Budget Office estimates sequestration would cut additional 1.4% to 2.0% off economic growth in 2013. Fourth quarter 2012 Gross Domestic Product already contracted for the first time in over 3 years on defense cuts. When people don’t have money, or jobs, they don’t spend money.
In an interview with NPR, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Martin Dempsey is quoted, “We will weather this. The military is never going to fail to answer the call when the nation is threatened. So we will weather this, but shame on us all if we weather it at the expense of those who choose to serve in uniform.”
Yes, we will weather this. The question is how bad is this storm going to be and how long will it take to pick up the pieces?
DoD Special Report on Sequestration
Defense Leaders Brief Press on DoD Worker Furloughs 2/20/2013
DoD Details States Hit Hardest by Sequestration