“It turns out that “budget sequestration,” portrayed as an evenhanded way to spur bipartisan negotiations over budget deficits, is actually a dagger aimed at defense spending. The president and other top administration officials have said the automatic spending cuts required by sequestration are ‘bad policy.’ But they still support ‘sequestration’ as a political tool instead of proposing needed changes that might fulfill its original purpose: pushing Democrats and Republicans into realistic budget negotiations.
“Though defense spending represents 19 percent of the budget in 2012, it would absorb half the cuts. Moreover, many entitlements (Social Security, Medicaid) were excluded from cuts…
“…The sequestration now scheduled for next January means about another $500 billion in military cuts over the decade. These are in addition to the $487 billion in defense reductions already in the BCA and billions of earlier cuts ordered by former defense secretary Robert Gates, who ended some major programs including the F-22 stealth fighter. Nor do these cuts count the automatic reductions occurring from withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Even without sequester, defense spending is estimated to fall to 13 percent of the budget in 2017.
“Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has repeatedly denounced the sequester. In a letter in November to Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, he called the prospective cuts ‘devastating.’ After a decade, they would result in ‘the smallest ground force since 1940, the smallest number of ships since 1915, and the smallest Air Force in its history.’ Testifying Feb. 16 before Congress, he said sequestration ‘would . . . inflict severe damage on our national defense.’
“Even the threatened sequester has bad effects, argue defense analysts Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institution and Mackenzie Eaglen of the American Enterprise Institute. It weakens the president’s ability ‘to signal Iran, North Korea and China that the United States remains as firmly committed to our interests and allies as ever.’
“Panetta talks as if sequester won’t occur because the consequences would be so dreadful. Somehow after the election, Congress will reach a better budget agreement. Perhaps. But this smacks of wishful thinking that (wrongly) justifies continuing the sequester in its current form.”