Confusion and rumor are swirling around the sequester scenario, as a glance at almost any newspaper these days will indicate. To take one example, last week The Economist published an article saying:
Military pay and benefits are exempt from the sequester, as are “overseas contingency operations” [OCO] (the war in Afghanistan), so the money will have to come out of a remaining defence pot of $375 billion.
In fact, neither military pay nor OCO has been exempted from sequestration. The Budget Control Act allows the President to choose whether to exempt military compensation, but no decision has yet been made. (See reference mid-way through this article.) Also, contrary to The Economist’s description, OMB already stated in letters dated May 25th and June 15th that OCO will not be exempt from sequester. According to the May letter:
Funds designated by Congress for OCO are subject to sequester, provided that those funds are not otherwise exempt… BBEDCA does not provide any special exemption for spending on OCO, meaning that those funds are generally subject to sequester.
Studious Will + Wallet readers will notice that the media’s quickening drumbeat on sequester doesn’t mean that new stories are being broken, or even that old stories are being clarified. Indeed, when The Economist rightly reported that in “nothing much [regarding a substitute deal] is likely to happen until after the election in November,” it could have extended that conclusion to most other aspects of sequestration.