House speaker says no more defense cuts

October 27, 2011 - 5:25 PM
Congress Republicans

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, calls on the Senate to approve fifteen house-passed jobs bills, Thursday, Oct. 27, 2011, during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Top congressional Republicans, Democrats and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta are united in a single message to the special bipartisan committee looking for ways to cut the deficit: Leave military spending alone.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, told reporters Thursday that the Pentagon budget was cut more than enough in the debt accord this past summer by President Barack Obama and Republicans.

That deal calls for cuts of $350 billion in projected spending over 10 years. The Pentagon is planning on reductions of about $450 billion.

"I would argue that they've taken more than their fair share of the hits," Boehner said.

His comments echo the argument made by others lawmakers as well as Panetta, who in recent speeches and congressional testimony insisted that the Pentagon be spared further cuts.

Rising deficits and deep debt have forced the federal government to slash spending, even at the Pentagon.

The Department of Defense's budget has nearly doubled to $700 billion in the 10 years since the Sept. 11 attacks. Those numbers do not include the trillion-plus spent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The 12-member supercommittee has a mandate to come up with at least $1.2 trillion in overall spending cuts over 10 years. If it fails to do so by Nov. 23 or if Congress rejects its plan, then automatic, across-the-board cuts of $1.2 trillion kick in, with half coming from defense.

Panetta has called that the "doomsday mechanism" and lawmakers have warned of the dire consequences of such reductions that would mean about $1 trillion over 10 years.

In a speech Thursday, Rep. Adam Smith of Washington state, the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, said simply insisting on no more cuts is insufficient. He said lawmakers not only need to offer alternatives to the supercommittee, including raising revenue, but also be open to other options.

Otherwise, "defense is going to be crucified," he said.

Speaking to the American Enterprise Institute, Smith said, "If we don't step up and confront the problem with either revenue or spending outside the defense budget, give the supercommittee somewhere to go, give people who want to control the deficit, including our bond raters, somewhere to go, inevitably defense is going to be crushed."