September 21, 2012
Credit: Credit: Architect of the Capitol
The Pentagon’s top money man again urged Congress to stop across-the-board budget cuts that he said would devastate the U.S. military, but downplayed the prospect of billions of dollars in contract termination fees forecast by some in industry.
Undersecretary of Defense Robert Hales said on Thursday piling $500 billion in additional cuts on top of $487 billion already planned for the next decade would hit operations and training, procurement and civilian personnel accounts particularly hard.
He told members of the House Armed Services Committee that the Pentagon faced $52.3 billion in spending cuts in fiscal 2013, with every budget category except military personnel facing a 9.4 percent reduction.
That meant the Pentagon would be able to buy fewer weapons and those it could buy would cost more, while work on ships and other bigger weapons systems would likely be delayed.
Hale urged Congress to act quickly to avert the cuts rather than try to mitigate their effect.
“We need to avoid this thing, not try to make it better,” he said. “If you’re driving into a brick wall at 60 miles an hour, let’s find a way to avoid the wall, not figure out a way to pick up the pieces after we hit it.”
Democrats and Republicans are united in opposing additional across-the-board cuts in defense spending over the next decade, but have failed to reach agreement on $1.2 trillion in other deficit-reducing measures that would be needed to avert the automatic cuts to be split between defense and non-defense.
Industry executives say uncertainty about the process known as sequestration is already forcing them to cut jobs, close facilities and slow down spending on research.
They are pressing the Pentagon and White House for details on how the cuts would be executed so they can better prepare. The White House budget office sent a report to Congress last Friday, but it only gave the impact for broad budget categories.