The automatic across-the-board budget cuts (sequestration) to DoD and other federal agencies that will happen in January next year would be averted under a bill introduced by Senators Jon Kyle (R-AZ) and John McCain (R-AZ).  The Down Payment to Protect National Security Act of 2012 (S. 2065) provides an alternative to the $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts for FY2013-21 required by the Budget and Control Act of 2011. 

The proposed bill would meet the discretionary spending limits for FY2013 to FY2021 by achieving savings from extending the current federal civilian employee and congressional pay freeze through 2014 and reducing the size of the federal civilian workforce by five percent.  The five percent workforce cut would be achieved by replacing every three departing federal employees with only two workers. 

According to McCain, these actions would save more than $110 billion in 2013 that will otherwise be cut from the federal budget through sequestration.  ”We should at least be able to agree to one-year in targeted spending reductions, instead of the draconian, across-the-board cuts resulting from sequestration.”

In December, Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA), chair of the House Armed Services Committee, introduced a bill (H.R. 3662) to avoid sequestration.  Like its Senate counterpart, McKeon’s bill is in response to concern about the pending $500 billion in automatic cuts to defense budgets through 2021 ($55 billion in 2013).  The House bill calls for a 10 percent reduction in the federal workforce (replacing three leaving employees with one worker), but does not include extending the federal pay freeze. 

Reacting to the Senate bill, McKeon said “no one believes this is a perfect or final solution, but it is a realistic one.  It keeps our national security structure whole through a very political year, giving our military the certainty they need.”

However, even with strong pro-defense member support, both bills will face stiff opposition in the Democrat-controlled Senate.  So, although each day brings sequestration closer to implementation, it Is highly improbable that enough votes can be cobbled together in Congress to pass and send to the president an alternative to sequestration before the elections in November.