Three House Republican chairmen are insisting the Pentagon and White House detail the consequences for national security if automatic spending cuts are triggered following the second round of belt-tightening called for under the debt ceiling agreement, potentially resulting in a total of $800 billion or more in defense cuts over the next decade.
Citing remarks Defense Secretary Leon Panetta made last week in which he said automatic spending cuts would damage national defense, the three lawmakers — Armed Services Committee Chair Buck McKeon (Calif.), Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Bill Young (Fla.) and Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (Wis.) — ask Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Jacob Lew “about the national security consequences if the ‘doomsday mechanism’ is triggered and sequestration takes place for fiscal years 2013-2021,” reported GovernmentExecutive.com.
During a press conference last week, Panetta said DOD officials would not be drawing up contingency plans in case the automatic cuts go into effect.
The lawmakers’ Aug. 10 letter also asks for a preview of any preliminary conclusions the Pentagon reaches while it conducts a strategic review intended to help the department find up to $400 billion in spending reductions.
The impact on defense spending of last week’s agreement to raise the nation’s debt ceiling is uncertain. The deal’s initial round calling for $900 billion in discretionary savings could result — at least according to the White House — in the Pentagon’s budget being trimmed by $350 billion over 10 years. If Congress fails to approve a second round of at least $1.2 trillion in cuts, an equal amount of spending reductions would be imposed, split equally between defense and non-defense programs.