The Pentagon has begun planning for billions of dollars in spending cuts slated to take effect Jan. 2, according to a senior official.
For months, U.S. Defense Department officials have insisted they were not planning for these cuts known as sequestration. However, senior officials have said they would be ready should Congress not pass legislation to avert the cuts, which were agreed upon through the Budget Control Act last year.
With less than two months remaining before the implementation date, planning has begun.
“We get a certain amount of criticism for not planning more for sequestration,” said Frank Kendall, DoD’s acquisition chief, at a Nov. 5 speech at a government contract management conference in Washington. “We actually are starting to do some planning.”
Asked about Kendall’s comments, Lt. Col. Elizabeth Robbins, a spokeswoman for Pentagon Comptroller Robert Hale, said, “Mr. Kendall’s comments today were intended to carry the same message that Comptroller Hale has said consistently.”
“By ‘planning,’ [Kendall] was stating that the Department is working closely with [the White House Office of Management and Budget] to understand the law and assess its impacts," she said in an email.
Kendall said the Pentagon might be able to withstand “a few billion” dollar cut to its budget. Larger spending cuts would require DoD to develop a new military strategy.
Sequestration calls for $500 billion in defense spending cuts over a decade, which amounts to about $50 billion annually.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and other top defense officials have called for Congress to come up with a deficit reduction deal that averts cuts to defense spending.
With a presidential and congressional elections looming on Nov. 6, it will be up to a lame-duck Congress to come up with a plan to stave off sequestration.
On sequestration, Kendall said he expects “a delay for a few months” until the new Congress is seated.