Year two of sequestration begins today, but Congress’ end-of-year budget deal lessened the effects of the cuts to the Defense Department.
Military officials’ pleas to Congress to ease sequestration had some impact. Sequestration — the across-the-board cuts of the Budget Control Act of 2011 — were passed last year as a means to reduce the federal government’s deficit by $1.2 trillion over a decade.
In 2014, sequestration cuts on the department were reduced to about $30 billion instead of last year’s hard-hitting $46 billion.
“This agreement does not solve all of DOD’s budget problems, but it helps us address our readiness, especially in 2014, with putting more money back into training in particular, and procurement,” said Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel during a news conference in December. “It also gives us some new certainty and predictability for our planning, for our budgeting over the next two years, which is particularly important.”
After last year’s cuts went into effect in March, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno spoke out against them, citing the devastating impact to training and readiness. In October, he told attendees of the Association of the United States Army’s annual conference the Army only had two combat-ready brigade combat teams.
“It really impacts one-year readiness,” Odierno told Army Times in December about the budget deal. “It really gives us money back in ’14, that is going to enable us to buy back some of our readiness. It’s going to enable us to do more training with our brigade combat teams.
“This does not fix sequestration,” he continued. “It just helps us with the short-term revenues in ’14, which we are thankful for. We’re very thankful that this bill was passed.”
It’s unclear if these cuts will lead to another furlough of civilian personnel. A reduction in force at Fort Hood was announced in November and is still scheduled to move forward. Nearly 200 civilians in the Garrison Command will be let go by June.
Officials predicted other areas that could be impacted are the number of contractors at installations and an increase in costs for access to family programs.