Pen­tagon be­gins plan­ning for mas­sive bud­get cuts

Austin American-Statesman - - THE SECOND FRONT - By Lolita c. Baldor

WASHINGTON — The De­fense De­part­ment has be­gun plan­ning for the roughly $500 bil­lion in per­son­nel and pro­gram cuts over a decade that will be needed if Congress and the White House fail to reach a deal that would avoid the dou­ble hit of tax hikes and spend­ing cuts dubbed the “fis­cal cliff.”

De­part­ment spokesman Ge­orge Lit­tle said the cuts would be “dev­as­tat­ing to our na­tional de­fense.”

As the White House and mem­bers of Congress con­tinue to wran­gle over how best to find as much as $1.2 tril­lion in sav­ings over the next 10 years to avert the fis­cal cliff, Lit­tle said the Pen­tagon started more de­tailed dis­cus­sions this week on how to slash 9.4 per­cent of its bud­get across the board.

He said cuts that deep could force the de­part­ment to throw out its new mil­i­tary strat­egy, and cut weapons and tech­nol­ogy pro­grams, and it could ham­per the de­part­ment’s abil­ity to pro­vide for its troops and their fam­i­lies.

The de­part­ment also is be­gin­ning to fig­ure out how it will pre­pare and in­form about 3 mil­lion mil­i­tary, civil­ian and con­tract work­ers about the cuts, if they oc­cur.

For months, Pen­tagon of­fi­cials have in­sisted they were not plan­ning for the mas­sive bud­get cuts that would au­to­mat­i­cally kick in af­ter the first of the year if the White House and Congress doesn’t strike a deal. But with less than a month to go and no deal in sight, those eval­u­a­tions have be­gun in earnest.

Ac­cord­ing to guid­ance sent out by the White House Of­fice of Man­age- ment and Bud­get, the Pen­tagon will have to slice nearly 10 per­cent off more than 80 ac­counts, in­clud­ing more than $4 bil­lion off Air Force air­craft and main­te­nance, $2.1 bil­lion off Navy ship­build­ing; and $6.7 bil­lion off Army op­er­a­tions.

If the White House and law­mak­ers are able to avoid the fis­cal cliff, the mil­i­tary still likely will be look­ing at as much as an ad­di­tional $10 bil­lion to $15 bil­lion in cuts in pro­jected de­fense spend­ing each year for the next decade. It’s a prospect that Repub­li­cans rec­og­nize is the new re­al­ity, with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan end­ing and deficits de­mand­ing deep cuts.

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