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DEFENSE COMMUNITIES 360

DOD Waiting to Consider Potential Response to Automatic Spending Cuts

  • September 28, 2011
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The Pentagon’s effort to consider strategic tradeoffs involved in trimming the department’s budget by about $400 billion over the coming decade should be finished this fall, but an assessment of how DOD would respond to the prospect of significantly deeper cuts is not being contemplated.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Jacob Lew, director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), provided that update earlier this month in a letter to Howard “Buck” McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

Issuing guidance to federal agencies about accommodating the possibility of up to $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts over the next 10 years does not make sense, the letter stated, while the congressional deficit reduction committee is crafting a plan to identify that level of savings as called for in August’s deal to raise the debt limit. If Congress fails to enact $1.2 trillion in spending cuts by Dec. 23, automatic spending reductions of that amount would be split between defense and non-defense programs.

After the Pentagon completes its ongoing review of the military’s missions, capabilities and roles in a changing world, the president will work with defense leaders to make decisions about specific programs. DOD is reexamining its fiscal 2012 budget in light of the debt agreement’s requirements and ongoing congressional action, according to the letter.

The debt ceiling deal imposes limits on security funding through FY 2013 and, in response, OMB still is determining the top line for the department’s budget request.

The Sept. 15 letter also outlines the consequences in the event DOD is forced to absorb up to $1 trillion in spending reductions after the automatic spending cuts are triggered. “DOD would almost certainly be forced to furlough large numbers of civilian workers. Training would have to be curtailed, the force reduced and purchases of weapons would have to be cut dramatically,” the letter stated.

A more detailed description of potential impacts on the military if the automatic spending cuts are enforced was released by the House Armed Services Committee last week. Read the story in 360 or download the analysis prepared by the panel’s Republican staff.

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