One reason is because the Pentagon would then have to show its cards, some argue. That is, it would have to tell Congress how it would reallocate funds from its lesser priorities to its higher priorities, says Todd Harrison, senior fellow for defense budget studies at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA), warned back in August.
“Once you show people there are higher- and lower-priority items in your budget, then the lower-priority items become the target, and they’re likely to get cut no matter what,” he says. Mr. Harrison is one who suggests that the Pentagon “would be wise to start planning.”
There are some hints that may be happening, sub rosa. Earlier this month, one official gave some indication that Pentagon planning for sequestration has at last begun.
“We get a certain amount of criticism for not planning for sequestration,” said Frank Kendall, undersecretary of Defense for acquisition. “We actually are starting to do some planning.”
Immediately, official Pentagon spokespeople rushed to clarify his remarks, made to the little-watched Government Contract Management Conference in Washington. “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,” Lt. Col. Elizabeth Robbins said.
Pentagon officials have always maintained that sequestration rules do not leave them much to plan for.
“The problem is that sequestration, the way the law is written, doesn’t give us an enormous amount of latitude,” Mr. Kendall said at the aforementioned conference. “We essentially have to go into every budget account and maybe every budget line and take the same percentage out of essentially every line. That’s a singularly stupid way to take money out of the Defense Department.”