Sequestration threat hangs over Hawaii military base where Obama landed for vacation

Patrick Howley Political Reporter
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The joint naval and air force base in Hawaii where President Obama and the First Family landed to begin their Christmas vacation was also the site of a town hall meeting in March at which the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff explained to service members the “fiscal realities” facing the U.S. military and discussed the looming threat of sequestration.

President Obama and his family landed at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam December 22 to begin their Christmas vacation. The Obamas rented private homes for their vacation on Kailua Beach on the island of Oahu.

Obama spent four days in Hawaii before announcing that he will cut his trip early, at 10 pm Hawaii-Aleutian Standard Time Wednesday, to return to Washington, D.C. to continue working on a plan to avoid the fiscal cliff.

Obama played two rounds of golf on the trip and spent time with his family at Pyramid Rock Beach.

A Democratic aide back in Washington, meanwhile, told the New York Times December 23, “It’s hard to overstate how little is going on” with respect to the fiscal cliff negotiations.

Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam hosted a more somber event earlier this year.

Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, held a town hall meeting March 9 at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam to discuss budget issues with U.S. servicemen and servicewomen.

“It’s not just about this year’s budget, it’s about an entirely different economic environment,” Dempsey said at the meeting.

Dempsey said that the military’s new “fiscal reality” forced leaders to make “hard decisions about what equipment to buy, manpower cuts to make, what construction to complete, and what family programs to continue,” militaryconnection.com reported in March.

Dempsey also discussed with service members the possibility of sequestration, which would occur as part of the fiscal cliff and would gut defense spending by $500 billion.

“What we’ve said to Congress … is in the interests of national security, they really ought to find some other way than sequestration to balance this budget, and it can’t all be balanced on our backs,” Dempsey said at the meeting.

Office of Management and Budget (OMB) controller Danny Werfel sent an email to labor leaders last week warning that unpaid “furloughs or other actions” could result from sequestration.

Obama declared in an October 23 debate with Mitt Romney that sequestration “will not happen.”

In the absence of a deal between Obama and Congress, the fiscal cliff will occur on January 1, 2013.

Obama will arrive back in Washington “midday Thursday,” December 27.

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