The Obama administration is putting attention-getting Pentagon projects on the chopping block in a bid to pressure Congress into making a deal that avoids $46 billion in military budget cuts March 1, analysts and congressional officials say.
They use terms such as “gold watches,” “hot button” and “Washington Monumenting” to describe the cuts outlined over the past two weeks by the chiefs of the Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy and National Guard in briefings and hearings.
Analysts and Capitol Hill staffers say there are less-dramatic budget items that could be sacrificed in the first year of a decade of across-the-board spending cuts called sequestration.
But they think the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the White House want to pick the items that would put the most pressure on lawmakers.
For example, the Navy turned to what perhaps is its most iconic weapon — and one festooned with jobs — when it postponed the Persian Gulf deployment of the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman. To drive home the point, the Navy also suspended the jobs-generating overhaul of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln.
Underscoring the premise that all politics are local, the Joint Chiefs and other Pentagon leaders have decided to furlough civilian workers across the nation and put local construction projects in jeopardy.
Meanwhile, the Air Force sent to Capitol Hill a map of the U.S. that shows state-by-state the millions of dollars lost to local economies, according to briefing documents obtained by The Washington Times.
“There’s no question in my mind by starting late and ‘Washington Monumenting’ the process, they certainly went after hot-button things,” Gordon Adams, a senior White House budget official during the Clinton administration, told The Times. “As far as I’m concerned, this is all politics.”
Mr. Adams explains “Washington Monumenting” as the Interior Department’s threat in a bygone budget battle to close the most famous icon in the nation’s capital.
Mr. Adams describes the chiefs’ actions as politics because they let it be known what they would have to cut weeks before Feb. 8, the date the briefing was due at the White House.
The stunning cuts also came as Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta was preparing to relinquish office and his nominated replacement, former Sen. Chuck Hagel, was in a tough confirmation fight with Senate Republicans.
“They decided to go forward with the most horrendous things they could think of due to consequences of the sequester,” Mr. Adams said. “The timing that they chose was as one secretary was leaving and the other secretary was wounded in battle, congressional battle; in other words, perfect time for the chiefs to assert themselves. So, they did.”
Some in Congress share Mr. Adams‘ view.