Keep It Manageable

Cutting some $450 billion from the defense budget over the next decade will be difficult, yet manageable, said Defense Secretary Leon Panetta Thursday on Capitol Hill. But forced severe reductions beyond that level would “truly devastate our national defense,” he warned the House Armed Services Committee. “I don’t say that as scare tactics, I don’t say it as a threat, it’s a reality,” he said. Panetta said the Pentagon is figuring out how to take “$450 billion-plus” out of the budget. “We can do this in a way that protects our force for the future. But it’s going to take us to the edge,” he explained. If suddenly DOD faces additional large cuts, such as the 2011 Budget Control Act’s sequester mechanism doubling the amount of defense reductions, DOD would “have to hollow” out the force, he said. “We can grow [basic rifle infantrymen] in 20 to 30 weeks—you can’t grow a captain, a major, a lieutenant colonel, a sergeant major in 20 to 30 weeks,” added Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, Joint Chiefs Chairman. “And if we’re not careful with this and we have a migration of that talent . . . that’s irrevocable for probably 10 or 15 years.” (Panetta written statement) (Dempsey prepared testimony)