Yesterday marked the beginning of sequestration’s furlough period. Most of the Department of Defense’s roughly 800,000 civilian workers will go without pay for about one day a week every week until September 30. These furloughs do not address the Pentagon’s long-term fiscal challenge.
The furloughs are a result of the flawed Budget Control Act of 2011, which placed a disproportionate burden of spending reductions on the Pentagon’s budget while ignoring unsustainable programs that currently drive the debt and deficit: Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. In contrast, the Heritage Foundation’s Saving the American Dream plan permanently balances the federal budget within 10 years and reduces the government to its constitutionally authorized powers.
Sequestration’s additional defense budget reductions of at least $500 billion between now and fiscal year (FY) 2021 come on the heels of an almost trillion-dollar defense budget cut between when President Obama took office and FY 2021. Sequestration undermines readiness and sets the budget at levels too low to meet U.S. national security commitments. Its impacts would be devastating. Furloughs could further exacerbate readiness problems by preventing civilians from completing their duties in required time frames and undermining the morale of the workforce.
The Heritage Foundation has detailed a number of ways the military can be more efficient. By reforming acquisition, health care, and retirement programs, the U.S. military could save hundreds of billions of dollars annually. But savings should be invested in weapons modernization, which U.S. men and women in uniform desperately need after over a decade of wars.
The sooner Congress and the President work together to implement these reforms and put the U.S. on a balanced path, the better for U.S. security, forward-deployed troops, and allies around the world.