Commentary Magazine


Misplaced Priorities on Sequestration

Unless Congress acts before January 1, sequestration will kick in and the defense budget will be slashed some $50 billion across the board—the first stage of cutbacks which could total $1 trillion over the next decade. That is certain to have a severe impact not only on Defense Department employees, civilians, and military, but also on the defense contractors that produce the vehicles, aircraft, ships, missiles, ammunition, and everything else needed to equip the armed forces.

Under the 1989 WARN Act (Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification) companies with more than 100 employees are obligated to give 60-days notice of mass layoffs and plant closings. Lockheed Martin threatened to send out those notices on November 2, four days before the election–and with many of them arriving in swing states such as Virginia. That would not be good for President Obama’s reelection chances so his Office of Management and Budget has alternatively bullied and bribed the defense contractors not to send out the layoff notices–the demands of the law notwithstanding.

To follow up on Alana’s post yesterday, the latest news is that OMB has promised to pay severance costs for contractors if sequestration occurs—as long as they don’t send layoff notices in advance. This is about as flagrant an act of political manipulation—putting the demands of the president’s reelection campaign ahead of the demands of the law—as one can possibly imagine and it should be greeted with more public notice, and press outrage, than has been the case to date.

If only the Obama administration devoted a tenth as much energy to preventing sequestration as it does to preventing an immediate political hit from sequestration.

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