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“Modest reforms to pay and compensation will improve readiness and modernization. It will help keep our all-volunteer force sustainable and strong. Keeping faith also means investing sufficient resources so that we can uphold our sacred obligations to defend the nation and to send our sons and daughters to war with only the best training, leadership and equipment. We can’t shrink from our obligations to one another. The stakes are too high.”

Gen. Martin E. Dempsey

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Everyone is spun up that Secretary Panetta has released a letter describing the effects of sequester on DoD.  In his description of FY13, he's not all that wrong: it would be a big cliff of a cut distributed across-the-board without regard for strategic choices.

However, for the FY14-21 window the cuts don't just sound scary, they sound too scary.  Of 10 weapon systems outlined for termination or delay, eight are on one of the three military departments's priority lists: 

That leaves European Missile Defense and ICBMs, which have unique Congressional equities.  

This budget tactic is called goldwatching, or the Washington Monument Ploy: if someone threatens your budget, say you're going to cut what nobody wants you to cut and ignore the things that maybe should be cut.   

As we've pointed out before, the sequester mechanism is a terrible device, but the savings levels aren't that different from past builddowns and we would be better off managing that builddown strategically rather than hiding our head in the sand and considering unrealistic options.