Pentagon Prepares to Freeze Hiring, Implement Cuts

The Pentagon will soon begin taking a series of steps to prepare for large budget cuts set to take effect if Congress fails to agree on a final spending plan, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Thursday.

The department will develop plans to freeze civilian hiring, delay some contract awards, cut back on maintenance spending and implement unpaid furloughs for civilian personnel, Panetta said.

Defense officials were also asked to ensure that all plans were able to be reversed if necessary and that they minimize harmful impacts on military readiness.

“The simple fact is that this fiscal uncertainty has become a serious threat to our national security,” Panetta said during a Pentagon press conference. “We really have no choice but to prepare for the worst.”

The Pentagon already faces a reduction in spending of nearly $500 over the next ten years and an additional potential cut of $110 billion in automatic spending cuts to military and domestic programs if no budget agreement is reached in March.

So far, Congress has only approved spending equal to the 2012 fiscal year levels for the Pentagon and has not acted on the 2013 defense budget proposed by the department last year, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said, meaning the Pentagon will need to find an immediate $40 billion in savings if Congress fails to pass a new budget.

In order to support troops still in Afghanistan, the rest of the department would have to face devastating cuts, Dempsey said.

“Operations, maintenance and training will be gutted,” Dempsey said. “We’ll ground aircraft, return ships to port, and sharply curtail training across the force. We’ll be unable to reset the force following a decade of war. Our readiness will begin to erode. Within months, we’ll be less prepared. Within a year, we’ll be unprepared.”

Posted in General News



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