Panetta: Big Across-the-Board
Cut ‘Would Do Real Damage’
As the Pentagon girds for funding cuts over the next decade, budget planners are hoping for the
best and ignoring — at least for now — the worst-case
scenario for the military’s accounts.
An agreement reached last month to raise the debt
ceiling and curb the nation’s deficit does not specify
any cuts to the Pentagon’s budget, but the White
House has made it clear it intends to trim $350 billion
over the next 10 years.
Pentagon officials, including Defense Secretary
Leon E. Panetta, have said the cut is consistent with
President Barack Obama’s announcement in April that
he planned to decrease security spending by $400 billion over a 12-year period.
“Make no mistake about it: We will face some very
tough challenges here as we try to meet those numbers,”
Panetta told reporters during his first Pentagon press con-
ference Aug. 4. “But those numbers are within the ballpark
that we were discussing with the president as well as with
OMB [the Office of Management and Budget].”
Indeed, defense officials already have begun a so-
called comprehensive review of military capabilities and
priorities to determine which force structure, missions
and equipment would be the least risky to cut. The out-
come of the review will influence the fiscal 2013 budget
request, which is due on Capitol Hill in February.
DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
The review, launched this spring by former Defense
Secretary Robert M. Gates, will “be key to what decisions we make and what areas we look to for savings,”
U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta has called
the threat of an additional $500 billion across-the-board
defense spending cut a “doomsday mechanism.” The
Pentagon already is girding for $350 billion in budget cuts
over the next decade. Panetta is shown here speaking to
troops at Camp Victory, Iraq, July 11.
While the Pentagon leverages
the review to prepare for the anticipated $350 billion in cuts,
defense officials are not considering the prospect for much larger
reductions in defense spending.
Under the debt-ceiling agree-
ment approved by Congress and
signed by Obama, the $350 billion
cut to defense is only part of an ini-
tial tranche of $900 billion in