Doomsday Countdown: Sequester Clock Passes 90-Day Mark

The Aerospace Industries Association-provided sequestration countdown clock tells the story: 89 days and counting before Pentagon cuts would occur. (Photo by John T. Bennett)

Some pictures are worth a thousand words. This one likely is worth more than a few antacids for many in the defense sector.

This Intercepts correspondent paused while pouring a(nother) cup of coffee after noticing something different on his trusty sequestration countdown clock.

Upon close inspection, he realized we have crossed the 90-day marker. That means if lawmakers fail to pass either a bill delaying twin $500 billion in defense and domestic spending in the next 89 days, the first tranche of cuts kick in Jan. 2.

Defense officials and industry executives warn the sequestration cuts would be devastating for national security and the U.S. defense industrial base. So the ticking clock is no doubt causing heartburn among them, their allies on Capitol Hill, and of course, among their investors.

That said, as the sequester clocks ticks inside 90 days, some scholarly work suggests the cuts might be manageable. For instance, the Pentagon budget would take the biggest hit in 2013, dipping by 10 percent — a decline that would basically return it to 2006 levels.

By 2015, it would be well above $500 billion again, growing to almost $600 billion by the end of this decade, according to the Bipartisan Policy Center.

But those numbers fail to provide solace for hawkish lawmakers who say the cuts would be catastrophic. Take House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon, who recently said if the sequester cuts go through, the Pentagon essentially would “shut down” on Jan. 2.

John T. Bennett

John T. Bennett

Bennett is the Editor of Defense News' CongressWatch channel. He has a Masters degree in Global Security Studies from Johns Hopkins University.
John T. Bennett