Policy & Strategy

War funding would be affected by sequestration cuts, Pentagon says

The Pentagon says that war funding would be hit by the $500
billion in automatic defense cuts through sequestration set to take effect
January 2013, which was an area that the Defense Department had previously said
would be exempt.

The inclusion of Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) in
sequestration will give opponents of the automatic cuts another tool to argue
for their reversal, particularly with the war in Afghanistan still ongoing.

{mosads}For 2013, the Pentagon has proposed a war-funding budget of $88.5

Initially, the Pentagon said that OCO funds were not
included in sequestration: Defense Secretary Leon Panetta wrote in a letter
to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) that OCO was “fully exempt from the sequester, so added costs for wartime
operations would not be affected.”

Panetta wrote that letter in November 2011, just as the
congressional supercommittee was failing to avoid the sequester in arguments over the federal debt limit.

Since then, however, the Pentagon has consulted with the
Office of Management and Budget to determine whether the war funds are in fact

“When we first read the Budget Control Act, the Department
believed that since OCO could not trigger a sequester, it would also not be
subject to sequester,” Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col. Elizabeth Robbins said in
an email.

“Upon further review of the law and after consulting with
OMB, the Department now understands OCO funding is not exempt from sequester,”
she said.

Panetta and other Pentagon officials have said that
sequestration would be devastating to the military — a sentiment that is
embraced by members of Congress in both parties.

McCain and House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon
(R-Calif.) have introduced similar bills to delay sequestration for one year,
but they haven’t gathered Democratic support.

While both Republicans and Democrats largely oppose
sequestration, the two sides have failed to find a solution to reverse the cuts
with alternative deficit-reduction plans.

Tags John McCain

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