12:05 -- Here in Washington, sequestration - the mandatory budget cuts which are scheduled to go into effect March 1st -- is a really big deal. There is little question that it will hammer an already-fragile economic recovery. Government contractors, particularly defense companies, are preemptively laying off workers, and the Pentagon and other government departments have told their civilian employees that they'll have to take unpaid furloughs if it isn't averted. Panetta and Dempsey have warned that the cuts would devastate the Pentagon and seriously threaten American national security. Obama and an array of Republican leaders say they want to find a way of getting rid of it. But no senator from either party has really asked Hagel about it.
Its another reminder that neither Democrats nor Republicans seem to be feeling any real urgency about avoiding sequestration. Its also a reminder of the overall strangeness of this hearing, which isn't as heated as pundits had expected and which hasn't paid any attention to important issues like the size of the Afghan drawdown or whether to intervene in Syria.