The outgoing deputy defense secretary predicted yesterday Congress will strongly resist some of the proposed budget reductions the Pentagon will unveil early next year, adding cybersecurity and long-range strike will not be among the cuts.
William Lynn, whom Ashton Carter is replacing, said the Defense Department’s ongoing strategic review, intended to identify cost savings, will be unveiled in its entirety to Congress in February 2012 along with the fiscal year 2013 budget proposal.
Lynn, who worked his final day as the No. 2 Pentagon official yesterday, predicted political resistance will emerge to some cost-cutting measures, akin to the congressional pushback to the Pentagon’s plan to shutter much of Joint Forces Command.
“I think we’re going to see more of those decisions where you’re going to have a situation where it’s not the case that there are no merits for keeping something, it’s just that there’s not enough money to keep everything and this falls lower down on the list, but there’s a very strong political constituency that’s going to argue,” he said at the Center for American Progress think tank in Washington. “I think there’s going to be a fairly robust debate about the program and budget that comes up. If you take $450 billion out, you’re going to affect a lot of different political constituencies and we’re going to have to work through that.”
The Pentagon says the Budget Control Act of 2011, signed by President Barack Obama in August, cuts $450 billion over the next decade from its spending plans. The law created a 12-member congressional Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction that is weighing up to $1.5 trillion in additional government-wide savings, though if it and Congress can’t agree on a plan defense spending automatically will be cut by roughly $500 billion more through a sequestration process.
Lynn said sequestration should be avoided “at all costs,” because it would force cuts on all programs “regardless of their impact or that priority of that program.”
He called for reducing defense spending in a “careful and considered fashion.”
“We need to trim modernization programs, but preserve increases in key areas such as cybersecurity and long-range strike,” he said. He predicted spending will in fact be increased for both of those areas, but not elsewhere in modernization accounts.
“I think the way to go at this is to look at what the critical missions are, which ones that we most want to protect as we see the threats that are coming at us, and where we think we can take risk essentially,” he said. “I think as we come out of Afghanistan and Iraq we’ll be able to make…our ground forces smaller, with a commensurately smaller modernization bill with a smaller force. I think that as we see the world now, you have to be agile enough to adjust, that smaller ground forces are going to be part of the future.”
Also yesterday, a group called the Coalition for the Common Defense held a Capitol Hill event to talk about its so-called Statement of Principles, which it said “rejects the false choice between military strength and economic health.” Panelists included House Armed Services Committee (HASC) Republicans.
The group’s statement says threats to the United States and world are escalating, and argues: “It is not simply ill-advised to consider the necessary investments in defense as bill-payers to avoid cuts in entitlements and discretionary domestic spending; it is reckless.” The list of signers to this statement is dominated by retired military officers.