The Pentagon is sounding the alarm about budget cuts ('The Washington Post', USA)
A senior Pentagon spokesman warned Wednesday that the military would be forced to send a vacation or lay off thousands of employees if additional budget cuts were necessary for 600 billion dollars.
An additional reduction of 600 billion dollars will become a reality if the bipartisan committee of the Congress appointed this month fails to reach an agreement on budget savings in the amount of 1,2 trillion dollars over the next decade .
Failure of the committee’s work will result in a reduction in the next 10 years of roughly equal sums in defense spending and social program spending.
On Wednesday, high-ranking Pentagon officials walked along a very fine line, raising the alarm about the possibility of large cuts in the defense budget and at the same time presenting big cuts and possible dismissals as practically unthinkable things.
“I would prefer not to scare our employees, and I don’t think it will happen,” a senior defense official told reporters at the Pentagon on condition of anonymity.
The briefing at the Pentagon took place on the same day when Defense Minister Leon E. Panetta sent a letter to the servicemen and other Pentagon employees, in which he said that large cuts in the defense budget were “unacceptable”.
“This potentially large reduction in defense spending does not mean a political decision,” he writes. “Most likely, this was invented to cause aversion and speed up a responsible, balanced reduction of the deficit and avoid erroneous reduction in the cost of our security.”
"Large cuts in the defense budget will not affect the financing of the war in Afghanistan, but they will require getting rid of civilian specialists and, possibly, will lead to the forced dismissal of a certain number of military personnel," said a senior military official.
The Pentagon has already agreed to cut about 350-400 billion dollars from its current planned expenditures over the next decade. These savings will significantly limit the growth of the Pentagon’s budget at the inflation rate.
"We believe that this is difficult, but doable," said a spokesman. “Our task now is to determine how to do this.”
The Pentagon is expected to spend about 553 billion dollars in the 2012 fiscal year, and this number does not include most of the costs of military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Many military analysts believe that the Pentagon will be forced under pressure from the bipartisan committee to agree on future spending cuts in the amount of 350 to 400 billion dollars planned for the next decade. But a senior Pentagon official said that the agency is optimistic about the possible compromise that the Democrats and Republicans committee will reach, and hopes that it will largely save the Pentagon from additional concern.
“I expect them to focus on taxes and social benefits,” said a senior defense official. “I hope there will be no further cuts in defense spending.”
Panetta is expected to hold his first press conference at the Pentagon on Thursday with Admiral Mike Mullen, head of the joint chiefs of staff committee, and will probably talk about the Pentagon’s defense budget expectations.
In his letter to the staff of the Ministry of Defense, Panetta made it clear that he would not support large budget cuts. “I promise in my first message as Minister of Defense that I will fight for you,” he writes. “This means that I will fight for you and your families when we are facing budget problems.”
At the moment, the Pentagon has not started preparing budget cuts in addition to the first stage of cuts worth 350-400 billion, despite the fact that the White House asked for it a few months ago, a senior defense official said.
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