Important shutdown news is getting lost in the rhetorical histrionics about Obamacare, the partisan power plays over blinking first and the personal strife for the furloughed federals. Topping the list: The sequester is surviving.
That’s especially true at the Pentagon. No matter what sort of miraculous bipartisan budget agreement might be hatched once the government is reopened and the debt limit raised, the sequester’s 9 percent cut to defense spending during the next decade looks to be locked in place.
There’s still an outside chance that, as part of a bargain giving Republicans the entitlement program curbs they’re dreaming about, Democrats might get to fund some of their priorities by easing up on the reductions to the domestic half of the discretionary budget.
“Defense has been a drive-by victim of this process,” says Gordon Adams, a military budget expert at American University and the nonpartisan Stimson Center think tank. “Most people who pay attention to money and the military are approaching the fifth stage of grief, which is acceptance.”
Congress “fears taking the steps necessary to put the Defense Department on a healthier institutional footing because to do so would require changing policies and programs that some of its constituents and special interest groups fight hard to keep — like pay, benefits, weapons programs and bases that support local communities economically,” the Stimson Center said last week in its recommendations for a revamped defense budget.
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