The service chiefs have until Friday to issue their plans to the White House to deal with the budget cuts associated with sequestration should the defense spending cuts be enacted on March 1, according to a Defense News report.
Pentagon leaders had postured for the past year in saying there is no real way to plan for a 10 percent across the board cut that would account for $500 billion over the next decade. As the deadline has approached, and sequestration becomes more real, the service chiefs have changed their tune.
Budgeteers in each branch have worked for the past few months to figure out how to ease the most immediate damage associated with the reduction in planned defense spending. Pentagon officials will have little wiggle room to protect specific programs considering the enormity of the cuts. However, officials can delay portions of acquisition development programs or reduce the number of contracts for certain phases of programs to save money.
The White House deadline comes four days ahead of a potential Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on sequestration in which the service chiefs will have to present their plans to the Senate. Defense News is reporting that the SASC is planning a hearing with the current service chiefs on Feb. 12 and then another hearing with retired chiefs on Feb. 26.
Congress chose to punt the sequestration deadline from Jan. 2 to March 1 in hopes of giving lawmakers more time to find $1.2 trillion worth of spending cuts within the federal budget. That is looking less likely as Congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle continue to dig in on their opposing positions on entitlement programs and tax rates.
Defense officials have already laid out their near term plans to furlough Pentagon civilians to account for the cuts made in the remainder of fiscal year 2013.
The uncertainty has led to delays in the passage of the Pentagon's war time budget. Pentagon leaders have struggled to decide how much they will need to fund the Afghanistan war because of the potential sequestration cuts.
It's also still unclear how many troops that Obama wants to keep in Afghanistan past 2014, the deadline to remove U.S. combat forces from Afghanistan. This has further complicated the formulation of the budget, according to a Foreign Policy report.