After months of near-silence on planning for sequestration, Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter on Thursday instructed Pentagon managers to prepare specific actions in case Congress and the White House fail to enact a new budget deal.

Carter’s guidance memo to all top service and civilian directors authorized such steps as a hiring freeze, a review of contracts, cessation of travel and supply purchases, as well as release of temporary employees. Near-term actions should be accompanied by “intensified” long-term planning, it said/…/

The new guidance “is a good sign, a step in the right direction,” Todd Harrison, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, told Government Executive. “The department is starting to do the things it needs to mitigate against the worst consequences of sequestration, and it’s better late than never. But ideally they would have started doing this months ago.” Harrison expressed optimism that the actions “will help Congress understand the real immediate impacts, not the hyperbole or the wild exaggerations, of sequestration.”