- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Republicans on the House Armed Service Committee are stepping up their effort to shield the Defense Department from additional spending cuts ahead of the Feb. 13 release of President Obama’s fiscal 2013 federal budget.

The Pentagon already is preparing to trim about $500 billion from its budget over the next 10 years. Under a process called sequestration, the Pentagon would face an additional $500 billion spending reduction over that period.

On Tuesday, committee Republicans released a online video that calls the sequestration cuts “irresponsible” and hails legislation that would pay for one year of additional defense cuts.

The “Down Payment to Protect National Security Act of 2011,” introduced in December, calls for a 10 percent reduction of the federal workforce over the next decade.

The reduction would be achieved through “natural attrition to the federal workforce, ” with only one employee being hired for every three who retire, said a spokesman for Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, California Republican and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

“[This would be a] natural process, without causing damage or harm to national security,” spokesman John Noonan said.

The legislation is touted as potentially saving $127 billion over 10 years, about one-quarter of the spending cuts the Pentagon is expected to absorb under sequestration. All of the bill’s co-sponsors are Republicans.

Sequestration is the term for automatic, across-the-board federal spending cuts totaling $1.2 trillion over 10 years due to Congress’ failure to reach a deal on deficit reduction in November.

Mr. Noonan said the bill would pay for only one year of defense cuts, but explained that “the first wave of sequestration cuts will have the harshest impact on DoD.”

Mike Amato, a spokesman for Democrats on the House Armed Services Committee, said they want to see a “larger approach to addressing our deficit problems.”

“What this is going to do is complicate the budget over the next 10 years, for one year,” Mr. Amato said of the legislation. “We need to address our long-term problems, and [the bill] doesn’t do that.”

“The responsible way to prevent sequestration and the devastating impact it would have on national security and other vital programs is by finding … the $1.2 trillion dollars in a combination of revenue enhancements and spending reductions required by law. This bill does not accomplish that goal,” Mr. Amato said.

Mr. Noonan said the bill “preserves the spirit of sequestration, and does so through a natural process rather than a trigger process,” adding that it is the first attempt by the House to undo the effects of the automatic spending cuts.