Defense & National Security

Obama gives in, signs transparency law his budget director didn’t want

Obama gives in, signs transparency law his budget director didn’t want

A law signed into effect by President Barack Obama today will force the White House Office of Management and Budget to talk about just how bad the coming budget cliff will be.

The Sequestration Transparency Act will force OMB to deliver a report about the full effects of more than $1 trillion in defense and domestic cuts, within the next 30 days. With so many unknowns, the major defense contractors have said they may be forced to send thousands of layoff notices to employees in advance of Jan. 1.Though defense industry associations and advocacy groups have launched frightening projections about the specter of sequestration, showing over a million jobs and billions in revenue on the line, the administration has so far refused to release a roadmap showing the full extent of the cuts and what programs will be most affected.

In a June 15 letter to the leaders of the House Armed Services, Foreign Affairs, and Intelligence Committees, OMB director Jeffrey Zients rebuffed their interest in learning what the sequester will do.

“Should it get to a point where it appears that Congress will not do its job and the sequester may take effect, let me assure you that OMB, DoD, and the entire Administration will be prepared,” he wrote.

Appearing before the House Armed Services Committee last week, Zients appeared just as adamant.

“The right course is not to move around rocks at the bottom of a cliff to make for a less painful landing,” he said. “The right course is to avoid driving off a cliff altogether.”

Despite having only Republican sponsors in the House and the Senate, the Sequestration Transparency Act passed both bodies of Congress within a seven-day span last month.

Obama’s signing of the bill may be a concession, but the administration’s party line appears unchanged. Announcing the signing, White House Deputy Press Secretary Amy Brundage Tweeted, “Congress must act to avoid these devastating cuts & ask wealthiest to pay fair share.”

Nonetheless, key Republicans said the bill’s signing was a move in the right direction.

“Within 30 Days, the Commander-In-Chief will have to do what this Committee, the Secretary of Defense, and our commanders around the world began doing a year ago- face the catastrophic consequences of the cuts he signed into law,”

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) said in a statement. “House Republicans have acted.  I look forward to the President’s leadership in bringing Senate Democrats to the table.”

The bill’s co-author, Rep. Jeb Hensarling, said the new law would help Congress and the American people understand the enormity of sequestration.

“The American people deserve to know how their commander-in-chief intends to implement half a trillion dollars in cuts to our national security which his own Secretary of Defense compared to ‘shooting ourselves in the head,’” he said in a statement. “With the sunlight provided by this new law, I look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress to replace these damaging defense cuts and expect the president to work with us.”

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