The Department of Defense is starting to plan for implementing across-the-board cuts that would be required if sequestration were implemented in January 2013, according to DoD press sectary George Little.

Little told reporters this week that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) had given DoD new guidance.  “We are consulting with the Office of Management and Budget and have been instructed to pursue internal planning on sequestration,” he said. 

Little said DoD’s leaders still hope that Congress will be able to avoid sequestration, which he described as an “absurd mechanism.”  The intent of DoD’s planning, he said, is “to not implement sequestration in an absurd way,” he said.  But, he advised that DoD is just beginning and “we don’t have the details firmed up.”

Previously DoD officials had discussed the effects of sequestration and described implementation in general terms, but said DoD would not begin active planning until directed by OMB to do so. 

DoD Deputy Secretary Ashton Carter told the House Armed Services Committee in August the across-the-board cuts would be applied to FY2013 appropriations and prior year unobligated balances.  Sequestration would apply to all parts of the defense budget, including Overseas Contingency Operations, with a possible exemption for military personnel funding, he said.  Initially DOD thought that war funding would be exempt, but OMB subsequently ruled that it would not.  OMB has since determined Military Personnel accounts would be exempt if sequestration were implemented.

DoD Comptroller Bob Hale, testifying before the House Armed Services Committee in September, said sequestration would force DoD to cut civilian personnel funding, which might make it necessary to “impose a hiring freeze, consider unpaid furloughs, and take other actions.” 

OMB has reported that if sequestration went into effect, defense and nondefense agencies would have to make a total of $984 billion in automatic cuts over nine years ($109 billion per year).  The cuts would be evenly distributed between defense and nondefense functions. 

For DoD, defense accounts would be cut by $54.7 billion each year beginning in FY2013.  Nondefense functions would also have to be reduced by $54.7 billion annually.  Of this total each year, nondefense discretionary (amounts provided in appropriations bills) accounts would be cut by $38.0 billion.  Medicare would be cut by no more than two percent ($11.1 billion) and other non-Medicare mandatory accounts would be reduced by $5.6 billion.