Wielding the sequester knife: 'There is no manual'

Defense Undersecretary for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics Ashton Carter testifies during a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee May 19, 2011 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

One week. That's how long we've got until the sequester, until the cuts start happening.

Ashton Carter is the Deputy Secretary of Defense, the guy whose job it is to run the Pentagon day-to-day and find the $46 billion or so the military's got to cut. He said the department is ready to "execute sequester," but he feels it's unfortunate the way it's being done.

"There is no manual; I don't think anyone's ever done anything this way -- and for a very good reason, which is it's a really dumb way to do things," Carter said. "We've cut our budget before -- we did last year -- but we didn't do it the sequester way. We had a chance to do it strategically and to ask the right question, which is: What does the country need?"

He said the uncertainty from the sequester will have an effect on individuals serving in the military.

"It certainly plays out on morale, it plays out on their family, and very worryingly to me, it will inevitably play out on their willingness to stay in," he said.

Carter also warned that defense subcontractors who don't have the financial resources to survive the cuts might not want to do business with the U.S. government anymore, because it'll be an unreliable customer.

And furthermore, he said: "You have to remember, the whole world is watching this. Our friends are watching it, our allies are watching it -- and our enemies are watching it as well. And that too causes lasting reputational embarrassment.

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Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.
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Odd that the media has spent more time talking about the "catastrophic" consequences of $90 billion in cuts during this fiscal year than about the $5.9 trillion that has been added to our national debt during Obama’s presidency, which is far more "catastrophic". An objective journalist would grasp the difference in magnitude.

Why is it that when we have budget problem in private industry we talk about bay and benefit cuts, but when we talk about tight budgets in the public sector they only talk about unpaid time off? All these threats are based on the idea that people doing important things won't be doing them anymore. Well how about they be professionals and go do their job anyway like everyone else has to? If they think they're under paid after the cut then they can vote with their feet, but unless they haven't noticed, the job market ain't so hot, and they're still well paid even with these small cuts. The reactions from all these govennment agencies act like this is just a temporary thing they need to get past, so they don't need to make any permanent adjustment to their expenses so they furlow instead of lay off people or postpone contracts instead of canceling them.

Negotiation 101: If you want something, make the consequenses of NOT getting it sound as dire as possible.

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