Report: Further cuts devastating to military

AP News
Posted: Sep 23, 2011 4:30 PM
Report: Further cuts devastating to military

Automatic cuts to defense spending that will take place if Congress doesn't come up with a budget-reduction plan would have devastating consequences, including undermining the military's ability to simultaneously fight more than one war, according to a report by House Republicans.

Republicans from the House Armed Services Committee estimated that defense cuts could reach $1 trillion over a 10-year period. That includes the $465 billion that Republicans say is already slated to be cut under the deficit reduction package enacted in early August. The White House Office of Management and Budget, using a differing baseline, puts the already determined cuts at $350 billion.

"Deeper cuts to our military, which has already endured the largest share of cuts in government spending, would be irresponsible," the report concluded.

The deficit reduction act set up a special bipartisan committee to come up with $1.5 trillion in government savings. If it fails, or Congress rejects its proposals, automatic cuts of $1.2 trillion would occur from the 2013 budget year, with half coming from defense.

Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard "Buck" McKeon, R-Calif., has been vociferous in warning against the consequences of those further cuts, even suggesting that he might back an increase in revenue through taxes to avoid deeper cuts in defense. He has also said it might force the military to revive the draft.

The committee report was drawn up independent of a yet-unfinished Pentagon study of how the cuts would affect the military, but committee staffers pointed to a letter from Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and White House budget chief Jacob Lew to McKeon last week in justifying their dire predictions.

Lew and Panetta said that if the automatic cuts occur, the spending level for 2013 as outlined in President Barack Obama's budget plan would be reduced by as much as 15 to 25 percent, depending on whether the president exempts military personnel funding. They said the Pentagon would almost certainly have to furlough large numbers of its civilian workers, curtail training, reduce forces and dramatically cut weapons purchases.

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen said at a congressional hearing Thursday that the automatic cuts have "a good chance of breaking us. And breaking faith with this all-volunteer force."

The committee report estimated that, with the automatic cuts, the Army and Marine personnel numbers, now at 771,400, would fall to 571,000, below Sept. 11 levels. Navy ships would fall from 288 today to 238 and Air Force fighters from 1,990 to 1,512.

It said the Marines would be particularly hard hit, with its ability to conduct amphibious assaults, non-combatant evacuations or humanitarian relief in a hostile environment put in question.

The decline in services for military personnel and their families and longer deployments "will cause many of our troops to vote with their feet and leave the force. Our all-volunteer military could become unsustainable."

States such as Virginia, Texas and California would be heavily impacted as at least 25 percent of the civilian workforce, some 200,000 jobs, could be furloughed, it said.

The top Democrat on the Armed Services panel, Adam Smith of Washington, said he shared the Republican concern that across-the-board cuts could damage national security. He also urged them to abandon their refusal to consider new tax revenues in coming up with a deficit reduction plan.

In order to avoid arbitrary cuts in defense and other programs, he said, "we must put revenue on the table and we must undergo a comprehensive strategic review to understand how best to spend the defense dollars we have."