Speaking during a press availability, Little stressed the department still hopes Congress will be able to avoid sequestration that would take effect Jan. 2, 2013.
“We are consulting with the Office of Management and Budget and have been instructed to pursue internal planning on sequestration,” Little said. “We are at the very start. We don’t have all of the details firmed up. Naturally, we hope very much that sequestration will be avoided. We don’t want to go off the fiscal cliff.”
DOD officials believe it is prudent to begin the planning process. OMB delivered the guidance this week. “We are going to have to do some detailed planning at some point on the numbers and the specific consequences of sequestration, which we’ve anticipated and already talked about,” Little said.
Senior defense officials, led by Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, have warned Congress since the Budget Control Act was passed that sequestration would be a disaster for national security. Essentially, the process would cut the DOD budget by $500 billion. This would be on top of the $487 billion in cuts already planned.
Officials also warn that sequestration would blow the bottom out of the defense strategic guidance released earlier this year. DOD used the guidance to plan the fiscal 2013 defense budget.
“If this is triggered, even in light of this absurd mechanism that was created to avoid absurdities, our intent is to not implement sequestration in an absurd way … inside the Department of Defense,” Little said.
He said that the effects of sequestration will not begin all at once on Jan. 2, 2013. Rather, he believes the department will have some months at the beginning of 2013 to put in place directives and policies to carry out the law.
“We expect in our planning efforts to identify not just numbers, but how we communicate to our 3-million-plus workforce, to prepare them for what may come down the pike,” he said.
The military manpower portions of the defense budget are exempt from sequestration, but Little promised to communicate with all segments of the DOD workforce in the weeks ahead.
“Hopefully, Congress will come to resolution on sequestration, but we have looked at those impacts and will plan against them,” he said.