“About Face!”

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“Funds for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) are fully exempt from the sequester, so added costs for wartime operations would not be affected.”

— Letter from Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to Sen. John McCain last November

“Upon further review of the law and after consultation with the Office of Management and Budget, the Department now understands that OCO funding is not exempt from sequester.” 

— Pentagon spokesman Lieut. Colonel Elizabeth Robbins on Thursday

Reading between the lines:

The Pentagon – and the White House – are growing increasingly concerned that the intransigence now gripping Capitol Hill could lead to a year-end disaster when the Pentagon is forced – under last year’s Budget Control Act – to swallow up to $600 billion in additional cuts over the coming decade, on top of the $487 billion already cut.

By asserting that the cuts also will be applied to the Afghan campaign, the White House is plainly hoping that “shortchanging the war – and the troops fighting it” will force Democrats and Republicans to craft a budget plan that shrinks revenues by $1.2 trillion over the coming decade, while leaving Pentagon spending more or less intact.