On sequestration, Obama refuses to back up words with action

White House/Pete Souza,

President Barack Obama waves goodbye to military personnel at Ramstein Airbase in Germany, June 5, 2009.

Article Highlights

  • On sequestration, the buck stops at the White House

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  • The president’s actions have yet to support his tough talk on sequestration

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  • When will the president start walking the walk on sequestration?

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As the federal government closes its doors, President Obama addressed military troops directly to offer a message of support. The President acknowledged challenges imposed by budget cuts on America’s military families and pledged to work with Congress to get the government back up and running.

President Obama then plainly promised he would “keep fighting to get rid of those across-the-board budget cuts—the sequester—which are hurting our military and our economy.”

But in the famous words of Harry Truman, the buck stops at the White House. If the president wanted to end the sequester cuts, he could lead the congressional horses to water. But at each opportunity so far, the president has not backed up his words with action.

  • As Bob Woodward has chronicled, the White House first proposed sequestration in budget meetings during the summer of 2011.
  • When the Super Committee failed in November 2011, the president was clear: “I will veto any effort to get rid of those automatic spending cuts to domestic and defense spending.”
  • During the third presidential debate, when Governor Romney went on the offensive to push back against defense cuts, the president refused to discuss the issue, saying, “First of all, the sequester is not something that I’ve proposed. It is something that Congress has proposed. It will not happen.”
  • Finally, in meeting with Senate Democrats earlier this summer, President Obama made clear that he would not give the men and women of our military special treatment in budget talks. Speaking about the president’s philosophy after the meeting, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) stated that, “On sequestration…he will not protect defense at the detriment of non-defense spending.”

 

Reaching a budget deal to avert the current shutdown, raise the debt ceiling, and replace sequestration would be no small feat, and if such a deal is possible, it would only be because of strong presidential leadership. Unfortunately, the president’s actions have yet to support his tough talk on sequestration. If he is serious about ensuring that our military remains the greatest in the world, he needs to stop talking the talk and start walking the walk.

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About the Author

 

Mackenzie
Eaglen
  • Mackenzie Eaglen has worked on defense issues in the U.S. Congress, both House and Senate, and at the Pentagon in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and on the Joint Staff. She specializes in defense strategy, budget, military readiness and the defense industrial base. In 2010, Ms. Eaglen served as a staff member of the congressionally mandated Quadrennial Defense Review Independent Panel, a bipartisan, blue-ribbon commission established to assess the Pentagon's major defense strategy. A prolific writer on defense related issues, she has also testified before Congress.


     


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