Panetta Warns Debt Committee Against Cutting Defense Budget

The pressure on Congress to maintain exorbitantly high defense spending is a strong as ever, but plenty could be cut with ease

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta declared Thursday that he will not see the Pentagon budget cut. “I don’t want to hollow out the force,” Panetta told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “I am not going to do that.”

Either forgetting or disregarding two important factors with respect to the impending budget cuts, Panetta showed unusual prerogative for a Defense Secretary. First, Congress has the power to dictate the allocation of funds, not the Defense Secretary. Secondly, the maximum proposed cut to defense is no larger than $600 billion over the space of a decade. This would barely dent the current balance of world defense spending, of which America makes up almost half.

If the special congressional deficit panel – the so-called super-committee – fails to agree on $1.2 trillion in federal spending cuts by Thanksgiving, the Pentagon would face around $600 billion in automatic, across the board cuts. Defense Department complaints are that they already have to deal with funding reductions mandated in the August debt deal, which equal $350 billion over ten years. So, Panetta warned, the super-committee had better make a deal before the deadline.

But signs are that he doesn’t have much to worry about. The 12 representatives in the super-committee all represent states where the biggest military industrial corporations build and manufacture weaponry. Serious cuts would put their constituents out of a job and are thus politically unpalatable.

Truthfully, resistance to cutting the defense budget is perverse after a decade of excessive increases in military expansion. The national security budget of the United States for FY 2012 totals around $1.2 trillion, or approximately one-third of the entire budget. And there is plenty of fraud, waste, abuse, and unnecessary militarism that could be cut while still out-spending any other country in defense.

Last 5 posts by John Glaser

Author: John Glaser

John Glaser writes for Antiwar.com.