The USS Harry S. Truman has been assigned a difficult mission with an uncertain outcome: Stay in port to help protect the Pentagon from sequestration.
With the automatic spending cuts set to take effect on March 1 unless President Barack Obama and Congress can agree on an alternative, the Pentagon is churning out a stream of memos, letters and PowerPoint slides.
All are aimed at showing how $45 billion in across-the-board reductions through September would undermine readiness (and, coincidentally, hurt congressional districts where weapons are made and Pentagon employees work.)
That’s where the Truman comes in.
The Pentagon announced last week a delay in deploying the aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf region to save money as the budget cuts loom. The decision will leave one carrier on duty in the tense region instead of the two that have been maintained there for much of the time since the middle of last year.
If the carrier’s stay-at-home status doesn’t make the point that sequestration should be averted, generals carrying charts and graphs will be on Capitol Hill this week adding their own warnings about cuts.
General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will lead a contingent of military brass and Pentagon officials testifying tomorrow before the Senate Armed Services Committee on the effects of sequestration in combination with the stopgap continuing resolution already funding the Pentagon.
In addition to reducing everything from training flights to Navy advertising if the cuts take effect, the Pentagon says it may be about to start dismissing some of its 46,000 temporary civilian workers. If sequestration isn’t stopped, the Defense Department’s 800,000 civilian employees — most of them outside the Washington area — face a day each week of mandatory unpaid leave starting in April.
The Senate Appropriations Committee has scheduled a hearing Thursday on both domestic and defense cuts under sequestration, with witnesses from Education Secretary Arne Duncan to Deputy Defense Secretary Aston Carter.