We are almost through the first year of the sequester, and the impact at the Department of Defense (DOD) has been less serious than advertised. The aircraft carrier Truman sailed to the Gulf; civilian furloughs were predicted to be 22 days, but instead were cut to six; and forces were clearly ready to fire on Syria if the president had asked. Was the sequester a mirage for the Pentagon? No, but the capacity of the DOD to manage the situation has actually been pretty impressive.
As I have said before, the tools DOD has to manage sequestration cuts are significantly more flexible than those of other departments: Military personnel are exempted from the sequester, and existing hardware contracts are also not affected by it; reprogramming authorities are large and flexible; war funding is fungible with non-war operating funds; funding for operations, training, and administration is also extremely fungible and doesn’t require asking Congress’s permission to move money around; and Congress gave DOD an actual appropriation this year, which was not the fate of most other federal departments. (This increased DOD’s operations funding.)
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