Yesterday, while speaking aboard a Navy aircraft, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned that if Congress fails to reach an agreement in the debt-ceiling talks and massive cuts are automatically triggered in DoD, that the U.S. unemployment rate could increase by 1%.
The current deficit-reduction plans call for a $400 billion cut in defense spending over the next ten years. The Pentagon feels those cuts are manageable; however, if the Joint Select Deficit Reduction Committee fails to reach agreement by November 23, or Congress rejects the agreement the Commission reaches, then automatic cuts of an additional $600 billion from the Pentagon budget would go into effect.
Last week, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said a combined cut of $1 trillion would be devastating for the military, according to the Associated Press. The Army, Air Force and Marines would shrink to their smallest numbers in decades, and the Navy would be smaller than any time in the last century.
Defense officials are also worried that automatic cuts would be based on arithmetic, rather than defense strategy or national security priorities. Both Panetta and previous Defense Secretary Robert Gates have stated that Congress should first determine the country’s defense priorities and then make cuts, as opposed to cutting percentages from every account.
Little also stated the defense industry provides 3.8 million private sector jobs, and the 1% increase in the unemployment rate would consist of government, military and private sector jobs.
Since September 11, 2001, defense spending has almost doubled, and that does not include the more than $1 trillion spent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.