NEW YORK – The U.S. ’s comptroller says there is not enough time to rework its fiscal 2013 budget request to reflect massive cuts that would be automatically triggered if Congress cannot pass a plan to reduce the federal budget deficit.
Under a law enacted earlier this year, $600 billion in cuts to defense spending would begin in January 2013 if a deficit deal is not struck. The problem is the Pentagon is nearly finished drafting a budget request that assumes that will not happen. “I don’t know if it would be possible for us to do a budget that suddenly cut another $50 billion out in 2013,” Comptroller Michael J. McCord said Nov. 30 at the Credit Suisse-Aviation Week Aerospace & Defense Conference in New York.
The Pentagon’s budget proposal must still be vetted by the White House budget office before President Barack Obama submits it to Congress in February 2012. But budget officials are vexed about how to plan for cuts that may – or may not – take place. With a deadlocked Congress heading into an election year, the prospects for a deficit deal do not appear bright, especially after the Nov. 21 failure of a bipartisan super committee that was supposed to find a solution.
Defense hawks such as Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) have vowed to push to pass a new law to rescind the $600 billion in automatic cuts. But Obama says he will veto such a bill if it is not part of a broader deficit solution. “We share your uncertainty,” McCord told an audience of institutional investors at the conference. “We just don’t know what is going to happen.”
If sequestration occurs, McCord estimated Pentagon spending would be reduced $40 billion from current budget plans in fiscal 2013 and another $40-50 billion per year during each of the next four years. But he cautioned that those plans will likely be revised each year.