President Barack Obama’s White House has told at least one defense contractor not to worry: Sequestration isn’t really going to happen.
According to House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon, Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Acting Director Jeffrey Zients told Lockheed Martin CEO Bob Stevens not to worry about the potential sequester.
In an e-mail to The Daily Caller, a spokesman for Rep. McKeon confirmed that Zients had told Stevens that the sequestration will not take place.
The congressman paraphrased Zients’ comment: “Why would I spend time planning for it when it’s not going to happen? It’s just wasted time.”
As the Department of Defense and House Armed Services Committee prepare for the worst with the potential sequestration, the White House has yet to even acknowledge the $500 billion sequester that has defense companies doling out pink slips.
Companies like Lockheed Martin and Northrup Grumman are bracing themselves for mass layoffs in January, yet the White House’s OMB isn’t even factoring sequestration into its budget projections — a move that is leaving contractors puzzled as to their next steps. (RELATED: Sequestration could boost unemployment, altering 2012 politics)
“They [Lockheed Martin] have 126,000 employees, they don’t just get up and decide what they’re going to do that day,” McKeon said of Lockheed. “They plan, they work out ahead. The military plans and works out ahead. But they’ve been told not to for the sequestration.”
“We [OMB] — as a rule — believe that private meetings and conversations are private and don’t comment on them,” OMB spokesman Kenneth Baer told TheDC. “However, we are not aware of any such statement being made.”
“Of course, the sequester should not happen,” he continued. “By design, it was never intended to happen, but rather to be a motivator for Congress to act on deficit reduction. Ever since Congress was unable to pass $1.2 trillion in balanced deficit reduction as required by the bipartisan-supported Budget Control Act, the administration has been very clear that the only way to avoid the sequester is for Congress to do its job and pass the balanced deficit reduction it was charged to do. While OMB has not yet engaged agencies in planning, our staff is conducting the analysis necessary to move forward if necessary. Right now, however, there is time for Congress to pass balanced deficit reduction, and we hope that it will. Should it get to a point where it appears that Congress will not do its job and the sequester may take effect, we will be prepared.”
On Wednesday, the House Armed Services Committee issued a formal request calling for Zients to testify before the committee on the impact of the sequestration, noting the committee’s decision to move toward the reconciliation process.
“At a minimum, this information is for planning, and perhaps the additional insight into the realities of sequestration will incentivize all parties to offer alternative deficit reduction plans,” McKeon said in a press release.