In 2012, Republicans ran against the massive cuts to defense that might occur in early 2013 under the congressionally mandated budget sequester.
Well, those cuts are now scheduled to take effect on March 1 — and, by the look of things, they will. The GOP has changed its tune; the Republican majority in the House seems content to let them happen.
The authors of sequestration, which was supposed to scare Congress into agreement on an alternative, did not anticipate the GOP’s post-election maneuvering. The party is abandoning its unpopular threat to block a debt-ceiling increase — and using the threat of the sequester instead. The goal, apparently, is still more spending cuts without any tax increases, a deal Obama properly refuses and which is less sensible for the country than is a combination of entitlement cuts and higher revenue through closing tax loopholes, which Obama might accept.
So much for the erstwhile GOP concern about gutting national security.
Obama is hardly blameless. He’s the commander in chief, yet in signing off on sequestration as a “forcing mechanism,” he embraced a political calculation that implied national defense was more of a Republican worry than a Democratic one. The Pentagon was already planning to trim a manageable $450 billion from its spending plans over the next decade. If sequestration happens, and continues over a decade, that figure would more than double.
The resulting furloughs, training reductions and procurement hassles would sow disorder and diminish readiness — while more selective cuts that might improve long-term efficiency would be bypassed.
It has become a cliche of sorts to predict that partisan gridlock will undermine national security. If sequestration goes forward unchanged, that prediction will come true.
The Washington Post (Jan. 31)