[updated 3:45 pm with Todd Harrison's analysis] CAPITOL HILL: Last month’s congressionally mandated OMB report on the impact of sequestration omitted an obscure provision that would slice another $10.1 billion from Defense Department programs in 2013. Because of that the Pentagon would have to cut $60.6 billion instead of $50.5 billion, a 20 percent increase.
This “second, separate sequestration” not previously accounted for would occur because the failure of the much-derided “Super Committee” triggered a reduction in the total amount (the “cap”) that could be spent on security-related programs, according to a report released yesterday by the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, Norm Dicks. The second-stage sequester would not affect non-defense programs.
The way the Budget Control Act is written, “they set a cap and then they lower it,” explained Todd Harrison of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. “They could not have made it more complex if they had tried.” (His own report on the subject also included both parts of the sequester but came in slightly lower than Dicks, at $56.5 billion).
As complex it is, however, Harrison went on, it shouldn’t have taken until October to figure this out. “This law was put into place fourteen months ago, you know,” he told Breaking Defense. “Why has it taken this long for both the Congress and the administration to get around to actually crunching the numbers and saying oh yes, ‘This is what the law actually means’? We could’ve had this discussion a year ago.”
With the new $60.6 billion figure in hand, Dicks’s staff went on to estimate the impact across defense programs in detail.
Military installations alone would take a $5.5 billion hit: $2 billion cut from new military construction, $1.1 from a separate account for “[existing] facilities sustainment, renovation, and modernization,” and $2.4 billion from ongoing base operations.
Despite the exemption of Veterans’ Affairs and Defense Department military personnel accounts from the sequester, many of the healthcare benefits enjoyed by troops, their families, retirees, and wounded veterans are paid for from non-exempt accounts, which would take a $3.7 billion cut.
When it comes to weapons, the Dicks report broke impacts down to individual systems:
- The Joint Strike Fighter program would lose $1 billion and four aircraft, as well as advance procurement to expedite the construction of future planes.
- The Army would lose eight UH-60 Blackhawks and five CH-47 Chinooks, as well as 11 Stryker 8-wheel-drive armored vehicles.
- The Navy would lose three F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fighters, two of the F-18G Growler electronic warfare variant, and one P-8A Poseidon long-range patrol plane, as well as “at least one” warship.
- The Air Force would lose an Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) rocket for space launches, as well as taking a $99.5 mllion hit to its new tanker and $33.7 to its Next-Generation Bomber (that is, to the unclassified portion of the system’s budget).
The report also detailed cuts and estimated impacts across non-defense programs, from 3,400 fewer Border Patrol agents to 7,000 unvaccinated children dying of malaria in the Third World.