Panetta orders civilian hiring freeze, contract delays

Evan Vucci/AP

The Pentagon will begin to take “prudent measures” in the coming weeks to prepare for a possible perfect storm of budget cuts, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said during a press briefing Thursday.

Those precautions include a civilian hiring freeze, delaying some contract awards and trimming non-essential facilities maintenance, he said. In addition, Defense Department components must start more detailed planning for the across-the-board budget cuts that are now scheduled to hit March 1 if Congress does not reach a deal on spending reductions.  

The more specific sequestration strategies should include plans to implement unpaid furloughs of civilian workers, Panetta added. “I want to be clear: It’s precautionary,” he said. “But I have an obligation to – to let Congress know that we may have to do that, and I very much hope that we will not have to furlough anyone.”

The Defense chief thanked lawmakers for delaying sequestration, but noted that the new March 1 deadline is less than 50 days away. The department also is operating under a continuing resolution that expires on March 27, and there is a possibility lawmakers will end up extending that for the rest of the fiscal  year, Panetta added. The budget situation could further deteriorate if Congress fails to address the debt ceiling.

“The fact is, looking at all three of those, we have no idea what the hell's going to happen,” Panetta said. “All told, this uncertainty, if left unresolved by the Congress, will seriously harm our military readiness.”

In the worst case scenario, the total cuts could amount to a 19 percent to 20 percent reduction in base budget operating dollars for active units, he said.  

The measures the Pentagon is taking now will help mitigate the damage, but the impact still will be severe, he cautioned.

“The simple fact is that this fiscal uncertainty has become a very serious threat to our national security,” Panetta said. "And like any grave threat that we face, the American people expect and deserve action.  Congress must pass a balanced deficit reduction plan, de-trigger sequester, and pass the appropriations bills for fiscal 2013.”  

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    View
  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

    View
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    View
  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

    View
  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

    View
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    View
  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.

    View

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.