Troops’ pay will continue to be exempted from the budget cuts known as sequestration during fiscal 2014.
The White House formally notified Congress on Friday that the Defense Department’s military personnel accounts will continue to be exempted, a move that will likely force the Pentagon to make deeper reductions in other parts of the defense budget, such as training and readiness, modernization and new weapons systems.
The federal law that imposed the latest round of budget cuts in March — which are due to last for a decade unless Congress repeals or amends the sequestration law — offered President Obama the option of exempting the Pentagon’s military personnel budget accounts, which is why civilian Defense Department employees are facing furloughs this year but uniformed troops’ pay and allowances have been unaffected.
If Congress fails to reach a sweeping new budget agreement, the Pentagon will have to cut some $52 billion, or about 10 percent, from its overall budget in the fiscal year that starts in October.
“This step was taken because the administration believes it is in the national interest to safeguard the resources necessary to compensate the men and women serving to defend our nation and to maintain the force levels required for national security,” according to a White House official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“The administration recognizes that this action would trigger a higher reduction in non-exempt accounts to compensate for protecting military personnel accounts. This fact underscores the unfortunate and damaging trade-offs that are required by sequestration,” the official said.