Department of Defense

As we previously reported, spending reductions affected the Department of Defense’s (DOD) civilian workforce and many programs and functions, and required DOD to accept some risk in maintaining the readiness of military forces. However, DOD was able to mitigate some near-term effects of sequestration on its mission. Reduced spending levels required DOD to take actions such as furloughing most civilian employees for 6 days, canceling or curtailing training for units that were not preparing to deploy by early in 2014, postponing some planned equipment maintenance at its depots and repairs or renovations of facilities, reducing some weapon systems quantities or deferring modifications, and delaying system development and testing. DOD’s approach to sequestration was a short-term response focused on addressing the immediate funding reductions for fiscal year 2013. DOD was able to reduce spending levels for the remainder of fiscal year 2013 without making permanent changes, such as adjusting the size of its forces or canceling weapon systems programs. We reported that by setting priorities for funding and using available prior year unobligated balances to help meet required reductions, DOD was able to protect or minimize disruptions in certain key areas, such as maintaining support for ongoing operations and adhering to plans for major weapon systems acquisitions. In addition, because of the flexibility afforded from its reprogramming and transfer authorities, DOD was able to manage and, in some cases, later reverse some initial actions taken to implement the spending reductions, such as resuming some aircraft training. DOD officials reported that some effects of the spending reductions were felt in fiscal year 2013 but that the full effect of sequestration would likely not be realized until fiscal year 2014 and beyond, and may vary by service.

In November 2013, we reported more in-depth information on planning, implementation and effects of sequestration for selected components within DOD.  See GAO, Sequestration: Observations on the Department of Defense's Approach in Fiscal Year 2013, GAO-14-177R (Washington, D.C.: Nov. 7, 2013).