The head of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) said yesterday he was preparing to meet with a member of the deficit-cutting committee about his opposition to additional defense budget cuts, a stance he said an increasing number of new House Republicans are adopting.

The HASC also said yesterday it has created a new Defense Business Panel that will examine the impact of the fiscal crunch on the defense industry and explore how the Pentagon can improve its working relationship with such firms.

HASC Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-Calif.) talked at a Washington think tank about his campaign to convince the new bipartisan Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to not include Pentagon spending in the proposal it is charged with crafting to cut the federal budget by up to $1.5 trillion over the next decade. If the 12-member congressional committee can’t create a plan that passes Congress by the end of the year, a sequestration process would trigger $1.2 billion in long term cuts, with half of that coming mainly from the Pentagon budget. Those cuts would be on top of $350 billion in defense-related cuts over the next 10 years already approved by the Budget Control Act of 2011 signed into law last month.

“Those (additional) cuts would open the door to aggression, as our ability to deter and respond to an attack would be severely crippled,” McKeon argued yesterday at the American Enterprise Institute.

He said he was preparing to meet with deficit committee member Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), who said last week he would quit the panel if it tried to cut defense spending.

McKeon said he and Kyl are not alone, and he senses support to resist more Pentagon cuts from his fellow Republicans; those include some of the 87 House freshmen who came to Washington this year declaring Pentagon spending should be on the table in budget-cut talks.

“I know of the 13 freshmen on the (House) Armed Services Committee, they all feel we’re past the point where we cannot sustain any further cuts,” McKeon said. “This has been coming so quickly, it’s hard to digest it all. But I think they’re at a point where enough is enough.”

He said he suspects “the White House and congressional Democrats” created the sequestration threat facing the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction–which could result in up to $600 billion in additional defense cuts–“to force Republicans to choose between raising taxes or gutting defense.”

“That political gamesmanship is simply unacceptable,” he argued.

Asked if he would support a tax increase to spare the defense budget, McKeon said he has never voted for a tax increase yet could potentially do so to spare military spending.

“If it came that I had only two choices, one was a tax increase, one was cutting defense, over and above what we already are, I would go to strengthen defense,” he said.

McKeon further noted his concern that the White House’s Office of Management and Budget has directed the Pentagon to prepare for the worst-case-scenario cuts.

Also yesterday, the HASC announced it has created a bipartisan Defense Business Panel led by Reps. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) and Rick Larsen (D-Wash.). Larsen is an outspoken advocate for Boeing [BA], a major employer in his state.

The new Defense Business Panel committee members “will examine the current defense business environment, to identify contracting or regulatory issues facing the defense industry; the use of incentives and mandates to meet established goals; structural challenges facing various sectors within of the industrial base, including universities and research institutes; impact of the current fiscal environment on the defense industry, at both the prime and subcontractor levels; and opportunities to reduce barriers to entry,” the HASC said in a statement.

“The panel will explore how the Department of Defense can encourage new entrants into the industrial base and foster the transition of technology,” it added.

“In a time of shrinking budgets and reduced federal spending it is critical that Congress explores ways to streamline defense contracting and reduce regulatory burdens that hamper business growth and prevent companies from entering the defense industry,” Shuster said in a statement. “This panel will play an important role in helping to create jobs and improve our economy.”

Larsen said the Pentagon “must do everything possible to encourage competition and implement improvement within defense contracting.”

The panel also includes Reps. Allen West (R-Fla.), Betty Sutton (D-Ohio), Jon Runyan (R-N.J.), Colleen Hanabusa (D-Hawaii), and Bobby Schilling (R-Ill.).

Meanwhile, significant meetings impacting the defense industry will be held today. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is scheduled to meet with defense industry leaders. On Capitol Hill, the Senate Appropriations Defense subcommittee will mark up the fiscal year 2012 defense appropriations bill and the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction will hold its first hearing.