During a February House Budget Committee hearing, Congressman Tim Huelskamp of Kansas asked Defense Secretary Leon Panetta about the Defense Department's plans to accommodate the constraints of the Budget Control Act. As a result of the Budget Control Act (the August 2011 "debt deal"), defense spending is required to be reduced by approximately $500 billion over the next ten years. An equal amount of cuts are supposed to take place in non-defense, non-mandatory areas of the budget. However, there are efforts to "undo" or "replace" the defense portion of the cuts.
During the hearing, Secretary Panetta told Congressman Huelskamp: "The position of OMB [Office of Management and Budget] was that we are not to plan for a sequester at this time, and that is the direction we have been given, and that is what we are doing."
After the hearing, Congressman Huelskamp sent a letter to Secretary Panetta requesting clarification of the aforementioned statement as well as any notes or memoranda regarding the plan or contingency plans.
On Wednesday, Congressman Huelskamp received a response from the Defense Department. In the letter, Undersecretary of Defense Robert F. Hale wrote: "The Department is not planning for a sequester at this time. Nor are we formulating contingency plans. For this reason, there are no notes or memoranda regarding such plans... The sequester mandated by Title III of the Budget Control Act is not meant to be a policy that we implement."
Congressman Huelskamp issued the following statement regarding the response:
"Simply, yet egregiously, put, the Obama Administration refuses to follow its own law the President signed," Congressman Huelskamp said. "How is it possible that such consequential legislation is 'not meant to be a policy that we implement'? Though I did not support the Budget Control Act, it is the law of the land. As it stands, our Defense Department should be preparing for the cuts as-ordered by law. Failing to prepare for these cuts not only undermines the rule of law, but also our compromises national security. If and when the money is not available, our military and its civilian support staff should be prepared."
"America cannot afford to continue to play these 'games' in which cuts are passed, but then thrown out the window when push comes to shove. With $16 trillion in debt and annual trillion-dollar deficits, it's time Washington stop burdening the next generation. If we are not going to trim defense, then we have to find a way to cut somewhere else."