Countdown to Sequestration: Three Months to Go

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DoD photo / Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta: "I'll take whatever the hell deal they can make right now to deal with sequestration,” he says of Congress.

The impending cut of $1.2 trillion in deficit spending has given Congress the vapors. Its members have hustled back home, seeking re-election for the great job they’ve done on behalf of their constituents. Is this a great country, or what?

It’s been plain for the past several months that Congress, and President Obama, wouldn’t come up with that deficit-reduction package – spending cuts, tax increases, or some combination of both – before the election. Whether they’ll be able to it in a lame-duck session following the vote is an open question. Most Congress-watchers think, at a minimum, they’ll kick the problem down the road apiece (editor’s note: isn’t this what caused the problem in the first place?).

The Pentagon and related agencies would take half the hit, or about $600 billion. That’s roughly a 10% cut in all its non-personnel accounts over what they had planned to spend over the coming decade. It would set Pentagon spending back to 2007’s level.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is beginning to sweat, just a little. “I’ll take whatever the hell deal they can make right now to deal with sequestration,” he said Thursday.

“Just the shadow of sequester being out there continually is something basically creates a problem for us as we try to plan for the future,” he groused. “We need stability. You want a strong national defense for this country? I need to have some stability. And that’s what I’m asking the Congress to do: give me some stability with regards to the funding of the Defense Department for the future.”