Lawmakers Want to Know How Defense Would Handle 2014 Cuts

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., left, talks with the committee's ranking Republican, Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., left, talks with the committee's ranking Republican, Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla. J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Two lawmakers want the Pentagon to begin planning for possible across-the-board sequestration budget cuts in fiscal 2014.

In a letter dated May 2, Sens. Carl Levin and Jim Inhofe requested that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel provide a “package of reductions” that would allow the department to meet the mandatory $52 billion in budget cuts due for the next fiscal year. Levin, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Inhofe, the panel’s ranking member, noted that federal agencies face a rising risk of undergoing budget sequestration again when the new fiscal year starts in October.

“We believe that the identification of these specific reductions will serve both to help Congress and the department prepare for the possibility that we will be unable to avoid another round of sequestration and to show Congress and the public how unpalatable that outcome would be,” the senators wrote.

The Defense Department’s $526.6 billion fiscal 2014 budget request largely ignored the mandatory cuts due under the 2011 Budget Control Act, according to Defense News. Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told Asian defense officials in March that he expected sequestration to be a temporary phenomenon and that the government would return to normal budgeting by October.

Defense is set to release its final plans for fiscal 2013 sequestration furloughs this week, according to multiple sources. While the stopgap government-funding law for the rest of 2013 reduced the number of civilian furlough days from 22 to 14, Hagel reportedly has been pushing his advisers to find ways to cut the number even further. 

A Defense spokeswoman said the Pentagon will "respond directly" to the senators' concerns about fiscal 2014. 

"The readiness of our force is rapidly eroding due to mandatory sequestration cuts, and we are deeply concerned about sequestration continuing into the next fiscal year," spokeswoman Lt. Col. Elizabeth Robbins said.

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