Last Updated:July 30 @ 06:50 pm

White House unnerved and unprepared for sequestration

By Donna Cassata

WASHINGTON (AP) - Tens of thousands of civilian employees in the Defense Department could receive warnings about potential layoffs four days before the November election if impending spending cuts aren't averted, hitting presidential battleground states such as Virginia and Florida hard.

The alerts would come in addition to any that major defense contractors might send out at the same time to their workers under an often-overlooked law, a prospect that is unnerving the White House roughly three months before voters go to the polls.

Frederick Vollrath, a senior Pentagon official, outlined the timeline for notification of possibly 10 percent of the 800,000-strong civilian workforce in testimony Thursday before a House panel. He cautioned, however, that no decision has been made on job cuts as Washington grapples with the looming, $1.2 trillion automatic reductions in defense and domestic programs.

"I don't think anybody has been able to come to grips yet with the severity of what sequestration means," Vollrath told the House Armed Services subcommittee on readiness.

Rep. J. Randy Forbes, R-Va., the panel's chairman, reminded Vollrath that the cuts were part of the law that Republicans and Democrats voted for last August and President Barack Obama signed.

"Sequestration is not just some pipe dream out there. It is the law. It's on the books. It's scheduled to take place in January," Forbes said.

He pressed Vollrath on whether the Pentagon has done any work to implement the reductions.

"I am not aware of any planning, but that does not mean that there is no planning," Vollrath said.

A few hours after that testimony, Pentagon press secretary George Little said in a statement that Vollrath did not indicate that the Pentagon is planning for sequestration.

"While it is likely that sequestration would force us at some point to make reductions in the civilian workforce, we have not made any decisions regarding the timing or size of those reductions," Little said. "The Secretary (Leon Panetta) has been crystal clear that his focus is on preventing sequester, not planning for it."

The across-the-board cuts kick in on Jan. 2, and under the law, defense employees must be notified 60 days in advance - Nov. 2. Congress must be informed of any layoffs 45 days prior to that, or mid-September.

Civilian defense employees are heavily concentrated in Virginia, a state crucial to Obama's hopes for re-election. Their numbers also are significant at military bases in Florida and North Carolina, two other battleground states, and installations scattered around the country.

These states also are home to major defense contractors such as Lockheed Martin Corp. and their construction facilities. Last week, Robert J. Stevens, chairman and chief executive officer of Lockheed Martin, told Congress that the across-the-board reductions could result in layoffs of 10,000 employees from his company of 120,000 workers.

He also signaled that notices could go out 60 days in advance to the company's employees.

The notification is required under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, which went into effect in February 1989. The law designed to protect workers and communities requires employers to provide notice 60 days in advance of a plant closing or mass layoffs.

The law applies to companies with 100 employees or more.

While the possibility of layoff notices causes consternation at the White House, it also worries lawmakers whose districts are home to Defense Department employees and military contract workers.

"I'm urging defense contractors in my district to contact their elected officials and urge a balanced approach to solve the problem of the sequester," said Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., in an interview.

But Connolly also blamed the Republicans who he said wanted more than a simple vote to raise the nation's borrowing authority.

"And now it's like the orphan who murders his parents and throws himself on the mercy of the court because he's an orphan. I mean what," he said.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Thursday that any deal to stave off the cuts would require tax increases on high-wage earners, which Republicans oppose.

"You know we have a situation where defense cuts that the president believes are much too deep, that Republicans and Democrats believe are much too deep as well as non-defense cuts. Republicans would allow those to go into place rather than asking millionaires and billionaires to pay a little bit more," Carney said.

Three Senate Republicans plan a trip next week to four presidential battleground states - Virginia, New Hampshire, Florida and North Carolina - to warn about the impact of the cuts.

Republicans have blamed Obama for the reductions in projected defense spending, but Republicans as well as Democrats voted for the cuts as part of a $1.2 trillion deficit-cutting plan.

The law implements nearly $500 billion in cuts over 10 years as the nation emerges from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. If Congress can't find a way to avert the automatic cuts, known as sequestration, defense and domestic programs would face another round of cuts of about $500 billion apiece.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said the reductions would be disastrous though he hasn't spelled out how the Pentagon would make the cuts to weapons, troops and ships.

Jeffrey Zients, acting head of the Office of Management and Budget, and Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter will be questioned by the House Armed Services Committee next week on how the administration plans to make the one-year, $55 billion in defense cuts beginning in January.

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14 Comments

  1. billwvComment by billwv
    July 27, 2012 @ 9:46 am

    “unnerved” “unprepared’ Seems to me that is the whole of the Ozero regime. He has no plan. He is clueless on the whole economic front. He is [at best] a very poor ‘community organizer’ and being a Marxist, socialist is what he is all about. This man should be retired to the vast expanses of the Siberian peninsula and given mandatory ‘stay at home’ [when he gets there] orders.

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  2. CharlieComment by vietnamvet
    July 27, 2012 @ 10:30 am

    That whole deal of raising the debt ceiling in exchange for cuts agreed to by the Super Committee with sequestration being the price of no agreement … that entire deal was an abdication of responsibility by everybody in government.

    Nobody who was involved in passing that should see relection.

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  3. genesalComment by genesal
    July 27, 2012 @ 10:52 am

    Many say that this is the most important election in history. And it might be. I say that this is the most DANGEROUS time in our history. A ‘Perfect Storm’ if you will, is forming.
    If the Bush tax cuts don’t get straightened out taxes will go up for everyone. If O’s HealthIdon’tCare stands that will drastically raise taxes, all 21 of them for most. If there is not a way around the half billion dollar cuts in our Defense we will sit Defenseless. The aforementioned events will create a ‘Perfect Storm’ a moment in history that our enemies, Russia, China, Iran and Islam have long awaited. If we don’t destroy ourselves first, will be waiting to pounce and we’ll be defenseless. Pictures of Pearl Harbor come to mind. And then the question is will be even have weapons to defend ourselves. A bit cynical? I sure hope so.
    Unnerved? Hell yeah.

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    • downdraftComment by downdraft
      July 27, 2012 @ 1:40 pm

      You’ve put it very clearly..Pearl Harbor revisited…no weapons, no money to buy them, no money to pay our troops, just what Obama has planned, i.e., to “bring us to our knees”

      Either Obama has planned for this to happen…or in his and Leon Panetta’s case “they right hand doesn’t know what the left is ding, and they can’t find their arses with both hands.”

      America, I speak to its cowards and wimps….
      America, much more danger follows:

      Isn’t this sad? We Americans just sit here and let them abuse us…and destroy our republic..we should be ashamed to have dishonored our nation because we are wimps and have allowed…

      ….”pimples on the arse of progress” to overcome us…
      ….to steal from us
      ….to defile our GOD
      ….to burn our flag,
      ….to spit in our face

      America…you know so little about your country that you don’t know what patriotism is…you believe it to be something you see in the movies…you don’t have the guts nor moral courage to sacrifice for your country, nor what the word means…you think it as being “aloof” to elect a criminal misfit because he is black to the highest responsibility in this world as president…you don’t care about anything that frightens you and choose to sell your freedoms and morality for security and support offered you by your enemy…

      In November 2012 you will bow to a MARXISTS as your new GOD for 2013…you will have not dishonored yourselves and your children, but you will have become a traitor to your countrymen and women…because you are cowards!

      You will have sold your souls for pieces of silver….

      Americans who care will REBEL…and you Americans who caused this, including you elected, shall be remembered and sought after for anexplanation”’as you count your pieces of silver…

      AMERICANS…don’t you give up your guns…they were left to us on purpose, planning for days such as we shall soon experience…

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  4. Gregory Lawrence FaithComment by Gregory Lawrence Faith
    July 27, 2012 @ 10:59 am

    Washington figures they will take care of this issue right befreo it goes into effect. Right, and pigs can fly. Start stock piling food my friends. Washington is BROKEN and no one is stepping up to the plate to fix it. Darn Shame

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  5. slickzipComment by slickzip
    July 27, 2012 @ 11:15 am

    ODUMBA wants to hollow out the military so his muslim brothers will have an easier time invading America

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    • bgintnComment by bgintn
      July 27, 2012 @ 1:00 pm

      This sounds familiar, like what is going on today.

      “[W]hen the resolution of enslaving America was formed in Great Britain, the British Parliament was advised by an artful man, – who was governor of Pennsylvania, to disarm the people; that it was the best and most effectual way to enslave them; but that they should not do it openly, but weaken them, and let them sink gradually, by totally disusing and neglecting the militia.” –George Mason, speech in the Virginia Ratifying Convention, 1788

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  6. bna42Comment by bna42
    July 27, 2012 @ 11:33 am

    “You know we have a situation where defense cuts that the president believes are much too deep, that Republicans and Democrats believe are much too deep as well as non-defense cuts. Republicans would allow those to go into place rather than asking millionaires and billionaires to pay a little bit more,” Carney said.

    Carney speaks with forked tongue. A few days ago he was pushing for higher taxes to offset the deficit, now he says higher taxes will be used to keep the status quo.

    I believe this was the intention when Obama and the Democrats pressed for the “debt commission”. They knew it would not reach any agreement, the automatic cuts would kick in, and the Republicans could be blamed.

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  7. genesalComment by genesal
    July 27, 2012 @ 11:39 am

    Those tax raises (on the rich) would take (8) eight days to spend while keeping thousands from attaining jobs, thousands losing their jobs and hundreds of Entrepreneurs from creating more businesses and more jobs.

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    • bna42Comment by bna42
      July 27, 2012 @ 1:02 pm

      genesal, the Democrats fully understand what you just said, but facts don’t matter to them. The Democrats WANT tax increases in order to have more money to squander, and the Republicans need to stand firm against it.

      These games of extending tax cuts for one year and then fighting over them again is ridiculous. All this does is continue the class warfare that Obama has mastered to keep the nation divided and fighting among ourselves.

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  8. librabobComment by librabob
    July 27, 2012 @ 1:33 pm

    All the great presidents who led this country through perilous times throughout our nation’s history must be rolling over in their graves. Their ghosts must be pacing the halls of the White House in disbelief and with immense concern that the country they loved so much is tittering on the edge of ruin. I’m sure they are dumbfounded as to how the American people could have been so ignorant as to give the country’s leadership over to a man who knew nothing about governing or leadership, nothing about economics and nothing about national security. They voted for a man who actually despised our nation’s history, our constitution and our economic financial system of a free market enterprise. He even warned the people before the election he would fundamentally transform America into his vision of what a great country should be. No red flags there! His wife even warned the people she had never been proud of her country in her entire adult life. Still no red flags visible! The people overwhelming voted to turn over the keys to the Oval Office to this unaccomplished, unpatriotic, America bashing leftist who had a Marxist/Communist indoctrination during his youth and past relationships with very seedy individuals. How could we have done this enormous damage to our great nation? It was after all, a self-inflicted gunshot wound to a vital organ… I only hope we can recover.

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    • StephComment by Steph
      July 28, 2012 @ 7:20 pm

      Sadly, I agree with your assessment. It chills me to see what has happened to America. I just read that health insurance companies can only keep 20% of their earnings! If a person with health insurance has paid into his/her insurance company over the 20%, Obamacare demands the insurance company refund it. Please see this post: http://libertylegalfoundation.org/2170/obamacare-rebate-ends-capitalism/ You know what is going to happen, right? Just as Irion suggests, the insurance business will shut its doors and we will have socialized medicine. Things like these attacks on our economy, our military, our poor foreign relations (since Obama has not a clue about that either), on and on are intentional and meant to destroy our way of life. I am afraid that a revolution will be the only answer and we don’t know the outcome of that, do we? We must get on our knees and pray.

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  9. bna42Comment by bna42
    July 27, 2012 @ 2:07 pm

    “. . .in disbelief and with immense concern that the country they loved so much is tittering on the edge of ruin.”

    librabob, not only the former presidents but also the military veterans who spilled their blood and gave their lives for this nation. This is not the nation we fought for.

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    • librabobComment by librabob
      July 27, 2012 @ 3:32 pm

      BNA, yes I fully agree with your comment. As a purple heart vietnam vet myself, I too am deeply saddened on a personal level by the direction this president has taken our country.

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  10. Pingback: White House unnerved and unprepared for sequestration – Refused to pass budget | Republic-MainStreet

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