Triggering Another Sequester

Although the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2014 is now law, Congress must still act soon to reconcile its authorizations with its appropriations or risk once again getting slammed by sequestration’s deep cuts, a leading budget expert notes. BBA advocates claim the nasty effects from the sequester will at least be stayed for the next two years, but Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments’ expert Todd Harrison says it’s a bit more complicated than that. The BBA merely raises sequester budget caps for Fiscal 2014 and Fiscal 2015, with the Pentagon’s piece rising from $475 billion to $497 billion. “This is about the same level of funding DOD is currently operating with under the [continuing resolution],” Harrison told the Daily Report. The 2014 National Defense Authorization Act implied a level of spending, but does not actually give DOD any money, Harrison noted (Congress approved the NDAA with base spending set at $526.8 billion— well above the sequester limit). However, this NDAA means little when it is so disconnected from the appropriations process, Harrison cautioned. As a result, Congress must either pass a new defense appropriations bill by Jan. 15, which likely would be part of a larger omnibus bill, or extend the existing continuing resolution a few more weeks. “Either way, Congress will likely stay within the budget cap they just agreed to. I would be surprised if they did not because they would be deliberately triggering another sequester,” Harrison noted.