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Editorial: Give Pentagon Flexibility

Dec. 17, 2012 - 02:30PM   |  
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With negotiations to avert sequestration stalled, Pentagon officials are lobbying the White House for more flexibility in executing mandated cuts — if they happen.

Unless Congress and the White House reach a compromise on a broader deficit-reduction deal by Jan. 2, $1 trillion in automatic cuts over a decade would be triggered across government, half from defense.

A senior Pentagon official last week said sequestration would cost $63 billion in cuts over the next nine months, and argued the right way to do that is to cut from broad accounts — like aircraft or vehicles — rather than the required 9.4 percent flat reduction from every line item in the budget.

It’s a good suggestion that the White House should approve. Permitting the Pentagon to cut strategically would preserve funding for accounts deemed of greater importance to national security and allow more reductions from those considered of lesser priority.

The best outcome would be for Congress and the White House to reach a compromise, including tax hikes, spending cuts and entitlement reform, and spare the nation further economic grief.

The ceaseless sirens warning of an approaching “fiscal cliff” have frayed the nation’s nerves and rattled financial markets with fears of a repeat of the 2011 debt-ceiling fiasco that spawned this long, ugly saga. Lawmakers and the White House have done nothing to inspire confidence they’ll work together in the nation’s best interests and strike a deal, so if sequestration goes into effect, the least the administration can do is to let DoD manage this crisis as thoughtfully as possible.

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