What the supporters of sequestration did not grasp -- or, if they did, they did not make a point to tell those they were trying to convince -- is that not every program cut will come under the heading of “government.”
The federal government spends billions to get private companies to provide services, make products and in general do things the government needs. If the United States were a socialist country, or even close to being one, the federal government would build its own roads, build the cars driven on them, and build weapons and machines we use to defend us.
But the federal government does not do these things. It contracts private companies that generally do the work more efficiently and, for those who worry about such, keep socialism at bay.
Today, the private companies that have done so much to meet the needs of government are going to fall victim to sequestration, just like everyone else who works for Washington.
The Department of Defense is a case in point.
Not only will civilian workers employed by the Defense Department feel the impact, private contractors who do so much of the work will feel it as well.
The Defense Department cut $37 billion from its budget this fiscal year. As Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel told the Senate Appropriations Committee’s defense subcommittee, “contractors are part of any institution,” and we all know the Department of Defense is a very big institution.
Cutting is not easy. “We need them,” Hagel said, because they provide “certain skills, certain expertise” that will be hard to replace.
Not that it matters, or seems to, to the budget cutters. So the department is reviewing all contracts; before long, decisions will be made.
“When you look at the buildup over the past 12 years,” Hagel said, “the money flowed in” and Congress authorized the Defense Department to spend it.
Now the money is not there, which raises the question, should we have spent it in the first place, spent it on two wars, three if you count the “War on Terror,” and on the other things Congress was told the military needed – and a few things the military did not want but Congress authorized it anyway?
Or should we have been more cautious in foreign policy and more frugal at home?
The Defense Department and other government agencies will have to decide what was really needed. Meanwhile, contractors and their employees will bear the burden of bad decisions made by the president, Congress and the Pentagon.