WASHINGTON – The Pentagon is likely to face steep, across-the-board budget cuts beyond the end of this fiscal year, the two top lawmakers on the Senate Armed Services Committee warned Friday, as they asked the secretary of defense to lay out in detail the consequences of slashing $52 billion from its budget next year.
In a letter to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, the chairman and ranking member of the committee said that a compromise on deficit reduction between the White House and members of Congress remains elusive, making it increasingly likely that the drastic budget-slashing process known as sequestration will remain in place.
Despite dire warnings from defense leaders about the impact of the cuts on force readiness, Sens. Carl Levin, a Democrat from Michigan, and James Inhofe, Republican from Oklahoma, wrote that many members of Congress have come to see sequestration as “an effective way to cut government spending.” They added: “As a result, there is an increasing risk that (the Pentagon) and other federal agencies may face sequestration again in 2014.”
The Obama administration’s $526.6 billion proposed 2014 defense budget was drawn up under the assumption that sequestration would be nixed by next fall, when the new fiscal year begins. If it remains in place, the senators estimate that the Pentagon would have to find $52 billion in cuts.