WASHINGTON—Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel warned DoD employees during recent townhall meetings to brace for the likelihood of sequestration in FY 2014.
“And as we roll into fiscal year 2014, which begins October 1st, we now have continued the very real probability that sequestration will continue. That means for the Department of Defense a $52 billion additional cut for fiscal year 2014, unless the Congress and the president come up with an adjustment to that current law,” he said during a townhall meeting at Naval Air Station Jacksonville.
On July 8th sequestration triggered unpaid furloughs for most DoD civilian employees for the rest of FY 2013.
In response to a question from a member of a townhall audience about whether he had “planned for a reduction in force,” in FY 2014 Hagel said that a $52 billion cut in 2014 would mean “further cuts in personnel,”
“I don’t have any choice. We took a $37 billion cut this year and you see the consequences of that. And, if you take a $52 billion cut there’ll be continued significant and serious reductions,” he responded
Hagel also said he worried about “losing skillsets.”
“We’re planning for a $52 billion cut,” he explained. “Maybe it won’t happen. Maybe it won’t happen. But we don’t have any exact plans right now to say okay this is the way we will do it. We’re preparing; [we] have to.”
Meanwhile, Republicans and Democrats were blaming each other for the current furloughs and sequestration. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (R-CA) said in a statement earlier this month that these furloughs “were wholly preventable.”
“For two years now, we have toiled to prevent and then stop these cuts. But at the end of the day, the buck stops at the President’s desk. Without his leadership, the House, Senate, and White House are at an impossible impasse. This crisis stops when the President decides for it to stop,” he said.
On her part, Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) said in a statement that “because Republicans won’t come to the table,” the sequestration cuts “are impacting everything from children who depend on Head Start to our national security.”
“The leaders at Lewis McChord have made it very clear the furloughs will also hurt our soldiers by limiting their access to medical care, and cutting back on family support programs, and making it even tougher to find a job when they finish their military careers,” she said.