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Sequestration or Not, Defense Budget to Continue Its Decline

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While many in Washington assume that Congress will solve sequestration by the end of the year–the problem Congress created when the Super Committee failed–recent comments by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) indicate that sequestration in some form is coming.

Worse, in some corners it seems that sequestration is not viewed as a problem to be solved but rather an increasingly preferable solution already on the books. Sure, some say, sequestration is a tough pill to swallow, but Congress has to reduce the debt.

Only one party is trying to meaningfully address sequestration, and that should worry everyone. According to Politico, Majority Leader Reid and others are digging in on sequestration. There is the sense Republicans are vulnerable since they agreed to this as part of the debt-ceiling deal. Now Democrats can use sequestration as negotiating leverage in the lame duck to tackle taxes and possibly another debt-ceiling increase.

That’s the dirty secret in Washington. It may have appeared just a few months ago that there was near universal consensus on the need to avoid the sequester’s devastating cuts to the military, adding about $600 billion to the $487 billion already slashed for the coming decade. But Republicans negotiated a debt ceiling deal only Republicans could hate that offered up two bad choices: tax hikes or defense cuts.

Now the most likely outcome is that taxes will go up and more defense cuts are still in store, including partial or full sequestration and beyond.

Senator Reid has drawn bright red lines, stating “I am not going to back off the sequestration…. To now see the Republicans scrambling do to away with the cuts to defense, I will not accept that.”

Reid continued, “My people—in the state of Nevada and I think the country—have had enough of whacking all the programs. We’ve cut them to a bare bone and defense is going to have to bear their share of the burden.”

Sequestration is now being offered up by some as the least-bad option. As Reid stated, “I don’t think there is the stomach out there to stop the sequester.”

That’s certainly news to the Pentagon, industry and military servicemembers. And it is yet another reason why it is past time for Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and his staff to start planning for sequestration now.

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