Top Pentagon Official: Military 'Cried Wolf' Over Sequestration

Defense Department file photo

The Pentagon has overstated the effects of the sequester's spending cuts in previous years, a top military official said Tuesday.

"We cried wolf about this a lot in '13, as '13 was approaching," said Frank Kendall, the Pentagon's undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics at a defense budget conference, discussing the sequester cuts.

"What we did in '13 was sort of the death of a 1,000 cuts," Kendall said, adding that cuts were made across the board, but none made a significantly negative impact.

Service chiefs have said that for the 2013 fiscal year they largely helped hold off on the impact of the sequester by doling out previously unused funds. And though the military was far from unscathed it remained globally superior.

The Pentagon is asking Congress for $496 billion for the upcoming fiscal year, $45 billion less than it originally projected and $9 billion above the budget caps under the sequester.

"I think it's time going forward to have an informed debate about this," Kendall said, adding that "we're going to put on the table what it means… If you don't like all the… things we're doing … look at all the bad things we'll be doing if sequestration stays in place."

And though the department's fiscal 2015 budget sticks to the spending limits set by last year's agreement, based on the outline provided by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Monday it includes provisions — including BRAC, changes to the A-10, and compensation issues — that Congress is expected to push back on, if not completely reject.

And after the 2015 fiscal year, the five-year budget expected to be released by President Obama on Monday will ask for $115 billion over the sequester-level caps.

But Acting Deputy Defense Secretary Christine Fox said Pentagon officials believe the "budget is reasonable and realistic and responsible."

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