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Pentagon planning for 2016 sequester

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Tuesday, December 02, 2014

        With just days remaining in the 2014 legislative session, senior defense officials warned Wednesday they are planning for the possibility of sequestration next fall.

               “We have to factor in the reality of sequestration and the readiness impact that has going forward,” said Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby, at a briefing for reporters. “We have to plan for the fact sequestration remains the law of the land in fiscal year 2016 unless Congress acts to repeal it or forestall it in some way. None of that action has happened yet.”

               Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work mentioned sequestration planning during a conference call with the Council of Governors where the 2016 defense budget was being discussed, Kirby said.

               Kirby said the governors agreed with Work and other military leaders about the negative impact on readiness of sequestration and the harm to states.

               Retired Army Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, president and CEO of the Association of the United States Army, has been leading an effort to stop sequestration, calling it a readiness killer.

               It appears unlikely Congress will eliminate the threat of sequestration before the end of the year because there is a full plate of other issues, including passing an appropriation and defense policy bill for the fiscal year 2015, which began Oct. 1. The incoming chairmen of the House and Senate armed services committees – Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas – have both vowed to fight sequestration next year in hopes of protecting the Defense Department from the sting of cuts but it is unclear if rank-and-file lawmakers are ready to reach a deal with the White House on overall budget priorities or are prepared to exempt or reduce sequestration’s impact on the defense budget.

               Work’s talk with the Council of Governors also include a discussion of the Army’s aviation restructuring plan, which has been a sore point in some states that would lose Apache attack helicopters but gain Black Hawks. “Both sides agreed to keep the discussion going,” Kirby said. Congress is considering as part of the 2015 defense authorization the possibility of freezing aviation assets until an independent commission reviews the initiative. Army leaders oppose the commission, but it is widely supported by many state National Guard leaders