Panetta says 2013 defense budget to cut land forces
But he conceded that “it will be a smaller force, and when you have a smaller force, there are risks associated with that in terms of our capability to respond.”
Said Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: “Capability is more important than size.”
Mr. Panetta said he is maintaining the 11 active aircraft carriers.
However, the Navy plans to have just 10 operational carriers for nearly three years when the USS Enterprise is retired and the next carrier, the USS Gerald R. Ford, remains under construction until 2015.
Some analysts say the Navy may well find out during the gap that it can get along with 10 carriers and save billions of dollars.
It is not clear how the Navy will expand from its current 285 ships to its target of 313 as it deals with essentially flat budgets.
What has been planned as the advanced workhorse fighter of the next generation - the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter - survived the budget despite its technology failures and huge cost overruns.
The Pentagon will reduce its yearly buys of the aircraft, which lowers the budget by spreading out payments over a longer period. The goal remains to buy 2,443 F-35s, but the total cost of $382 billion may further increase because the production run is being stretched.
On the strategic front, the Navy will delay by two years development of a new submarine that carries ballistic nuclear weapons as a deterrent to a first strike. The Air Force’s bomber fleet of B-1s, stealth B-2s and the venerable B-52 is being left untouched.
Mr. Panetta will ask Congress to authorize another round of base closings. Past base-by-base decisions have been handed to a special commission, whose recommendations can be either accepted or rejected in full by Congress.
“We simply cannot sustain infrastructure beyond our needs,” he said.
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard P. “Buck” McKeon said the budget cuts too many soldiers and Marines.
“To achieve these reductions, the president has abandoned the defense structure that has protected America for two generations,” the California Republican said.
“This move ignores a critical lesson in recent history - that while high technology and elite forces give America an edge, they cannot substitute for overwhelming ground forces when we are faced with unforeseen battlefields.”
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