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If Sequestration Happens, What's Getting the Ax?

President Obama has been warning that deep cuts triggered by sequestration could be devastating for the military and other government programs. But many Republicans, determined to see a reduction in federal spending, show no sign of wanting to cut a deal with the president to avoid the sequester.

Since the defense sector would see a large cut in its funding, several lawmakers and former officials have argued that it would weaken the standing of the United States on the world stage, empowering countries who threaten U.S. national security. Dov Zakheim, who served in several Defense Department posts in Republican administrations since the Reagan era, said the reductions could hinder the modernization of U.S. forces, among other impacts.

“What kind of message does that send to the Iranians or the Chinese or our allies?” Zakheim said. “There’s a real issue of American credibility. Most people around the world have no idea what the sequester is about. They can’t understand it.”

Here are some of the programs that would be pared as part of the sequester, according to a report by the White House Office of Management and Budget and letters from administration officials:

Air Travel: An estimated...

Amidst Drawdowns in Iraq and Afghanistan, Army Responds With EAGLE

The Enhanced Army Global Logistics Enterprise program is the latest defense vehicle designed to procure a suite of logistics tools and services for today’s warfighter. EAGLE (not to be confused with the Homeland Security Department’s EAGLE procurement contract) leverages a unique contracting framework to help customers procure virtually any logistic services.

But EAGLE isn’t a contract. “It’s actually a program,” says Scott Welker, deputy to the commander at Army Sustainment Command (ASC). EAGLE, he says, “uses basic ordering agreement for task order competitions. It covers all supplies, maintenance and transportation services requirements. If there is an [Army] installation that covers any of those areas, the ASC EAGLE will cover it.” A key feature of this program is its flexibility. With no minimums and maximums, EAGLE has a potential value of more than $23 billion over five years. In response to the drawdown in Iraq and Afghanistan, Army has developed a singular contracting vehicle that can procure virtually any logistic service under the sun.

(Related: Learn more about the EAGLE Army procurement vehicle)

EAGLE’s streamlined process comes in the context of a push for more flexibility and lower cost in the acquisition process. In September 2010...

Rwanda's Historic Health Recovery: What the U.S. Might Learn

Amidst the barrage of stories about failing states and civil wars that characterize the dour American media coverage of the developing world, the reinvention of Rwanda offers hope. Since the genocide with which its name is still synonymous in the United States, Rwanda has doubled its life expectancy and now offers a replicable model for delivery of high quality health care with limited resources.

Dr. Paul Farmer, Chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School and co-founder of Partners In Health, says that, "Rwanda has shown on a national level that you can break the cycle of poverty and disease."

In the wake of the genocide that killed nearly one million people in 1994, such a turnaround seemed nearly impossible. Rwanda was a failed state mired in poverty and chaos. The genocide decimated Rwanda's health facilities and workforce, allowing infectious diseases to run rampant and more than one in four children to die before their fifth birthday. Normally in such situations, economic development stagnates because disease cripples workers and the national economy, leaving the country too poor to effectively reduce the burden of disease. With a life expectancy of only 30 the year...

GSA Chief: Streamlining Offices Key to Improving Agency

The ongoing process of consolidating functional offices at the General Services Administration is critical to cutting costs and delivering better service to other federal agencies, GSA's administrator said Tuesday

In a blog post, Dan Tangherlini said an ongoing "top to bottom" review of agency operations has led to decisions to consolidate several functions. He highlighted three key areas of streamlining:

  • "In the days and weeks ahead," Tangherlini wrote, the agency will create a new technology office, bringing all information technology personnel, budgets and systems under GSA's chief information officer.
  • The agency is consolidating all human capital management employees and functions together under its chief people officer.
  • The Office of Administrative Services will bring together an array of functions, including executive correspondence, records management and audit response tracking.

Tangherlini noted that he had already ordered a consolidation in the area of financial management, directing the Public Building Service’s chief financial officer to report to GSA’s CFO.

"Our hope is that the better coordinated and more streamlined GSA will make us a model of how to provide the kind of efficient, effective, and transparent service that the American people expect from their government," he wrote in his blog...

Why the U.S. Government Never, Ever Has to Pay Back All Its Debt

How will our children, grandchildren, and sundry other friends and relatives too young to see an R-rated movie unaccompanied ever pay back the entire debt the government is piling up now? Easy. They won't. The U.S. government is never completely debt-free (except for that one time it sold land seized from Native Americans).

There's only one thing you need to know about the government. It's not a household. The government, unlike us, doesn't need to pay back its debts before it dies, because it doesn't die (barring secession or a sneak attack from across the world's longest unprotected border -- a most unworthwhile initiative). In other words, the government can just roll over its debts in perpetuity. That's the point Michael Kinsley misses when he says we "can't borrow forever," in an otherwise fine column trying to convince unemployment and deficit hawks that they actually agree on a "barbell" approach -- stimulus now, austerity later -- to fiscal policy. We can, and in fact have, borrowed forever. And that doesn't mean our debt burden will go up forever either. As you can see in the chart below, the government dramatically decreased its debt-to-GDP...

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