So far though, Hagel's warnings haven't brought lawmakers to their knees in the Congress, as critics of the Pentagon note that even with the across the board cuts of the sequester in place, the military's budget could well remain over $500 billion each year through the end of this decade.
Congress and the sequester
Right now, the sequester almost seems likely to stay in effect, mainly because there don't seem to be the votes in Congress to agree on any other budget plan, or to agree to target the cuts instead of having them go across the board. For example:
+ Democrats would like to wipe away the sequester with more targeted cuts and tax increases; House Republicans are emphatic in their opposition to new taxes of any kind.
+ Republicans have offered up targeted cuts as a way to shift more money into defense, but Democrats have made clear they will not agree to any kind of tradeoff where social programs are cut so the military can be made whole.
+ Even though Republicans set out a discretionary budget of $967 billion, they can't seem to keep GOP troops in line to vote for that plan; on Wednesday, House GOP leaders yanked a Transportation spending bill off the floor when it became obvious that Republicans were short on votes for the plan, as just four of the 12 spending bills have been acted on by the House.
+ The record is much worse in the Senate, where none of the dozen spending bills for next year have been approved; the Senate's version of the Transportation spending bill may get hung up by filibuster on Thursday.
+ The idea of the House voting for the Senate's $1.058 trillion budget seems far-fetched.
+ The idea of the Senate voting for the House's $967 billion budget seems unlikely as well.
But in that sea of inaction, that $967 billion figure for discretionary spending may be the trump card for Republicans - because if Congress can't get anything done at all on the sequester - that $967 bllion is the post-sequester budget level in law under the Budget Control Act.