Pentagon planning for defense cuts made worse by Beltway politics

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Automatic defense budget cuts for fiscal year 2013 will be over on November 1st, Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said Wednesday, but added that “no one knows what comes next here in Washington.”

In the coming weeks, defense officials will be examining how the Pentagon can manage through fiscal year 2014 if the defense budget is held to levels other than the president’s proposed 2014 budget, and brief the results to the Senate Armed Services Committee on July 1st, Mr. Carter said at a conference in Washington.


SEE ALSO: Gen. Martin Dempsey: Pentagon reassessing defense strategy under sequestration


With defense cuts of $500 billion over the next decade still in force under the Budget Control Act, Mr. Carter said the department was planning for several contingencies under its “strategic choices and management review,” which Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will be internally briefed on within the next week.

The Pentagon will use the results of the review to formulate budgets at several levels for fiscal year 2015 and beyond, Mr. Carter said.

The first level would be at the president’s proposal for fiscal year 2014, which defense officials “believe is the right level to meet today’s complex national security threats and to achieve further reductions in defense spending totaling $150 billion over 10 years,” he said.

“This is the responsible way to cut, because the cuts would ramp up over those 10 years, giving us time to plan and adjust,” he said.

The second level would be at the “worst case scenario” under full sequestration, where $52 billion would be cut from the budget next year, and a total of $500 billion over the next 10 years, he said.

A third level would be between the president’s budget and full sequestration, he said.

He called the effects of the automatic defense budget cuts so far in 2013 “not only regrettable and embarrassing, but disruptive,” citing grounded Air Force squadrons, canceled Army training exercises, and furloughed civilian workers.

“Perhaps the most concerning is that sequestration is painting an uncertain picture of the United States in the eyes of friends and foes alike that could be dangerously out of proportion,” he said.

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