Ash Carter: Deputy Defense Secretary…and Troublemaker

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Things were going swimmingly at a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing Thursday looking into the impact sequestration’s budget cuts would have on the government. Then Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said the Pentagon’s civilian workers might have to take a 20% cut in their pay – basically not showing up for work, and not being paid, one day a week.


DOD photo / D. Myles Cullen

Ash Carter, the Pentagon’s No. 2 civilian

“I’ve promised that when that happens, I’m going to give back a fifth of my paycheck to the Treasury for those last seven months if we have to furlough people,” Carter said in his opening statement. “I can’t be furloughed, because I’m a Senate-confirmed presidential appointee, but I’m going to give back a fifth of my salary.”

You could almost see the gears moving inside Senator Lindsey Graham’s brain when he heard that. Commonfolk been grumbling for months that Washington big shots should have their pay docked to do their teeny part to help ease the nation’s fiscal woes.

So as the hearing was drawing to a close, Graham, R-S.C., returned to Carter’s shrinking paycheck:

SEN. GRAHAM: Now, you’ve suggested that you would reduce your pay by one-fifth.

MR. CARTER: Yes, I will.

SEN. GRAHAM: How did you arrive at that number?

MR. CARTER: Because that’s the — if we sequester someone in our workforce to the maximum extent possible under the law, which don’t want to have to do but we’re going to have to do it in many cases, they’ll lose one day a week, one-fifth of their paycheck. And I don’t think it’s right that they lose one-fifth of their paycheck and I don’t, even though I can’t be sequestered because I’m a presidential appointee.

SEN. GRAHAM: Well, we can’t be sequestered either. But I think it would be very wise for us to follow your lead as members of the United States Senate, that if we can’t figure this out with the President, that all of us ought to follow your model, and for every day that sequestration’s in effect, the President should have his pay docked and we should have our pay docked, just to show that, you know, we don’t live completely on a different planet, which some people think we do.

So thank you for the suggestion.