Top House Republican Urges Cuts to Entitlements, Not Defense

Thursday, 13 Oct 2011 03:31 PM

 The top Republican on the U.S. House Armed Services Committee today urged a special congressional supercommittee to avoid further cuts to the Pentagon’s budget.

The supercommittee, tasked with finding as much as $1.5 trillion in cuts in government spending, should “make no further cuts to discretionary spending for national defense,” California Republican Howard P. “Buck” McKeon said in a letter to a 12-member panel.

McKeon called on the panel to find reductions in non- defense entitlements, such as Medicare and Social Security, instead.

McKeon said his message to the special panel is to “find the other $1.2 trillion out of the mandatory side.” The supercommittee is charged with finding cuts of between at least $1.2 trillion and $1.5 trillion.

McKeon also cautioned against overhauling military health care and military retirement benefits, which was suggested by a Pentagon advisory board.

“We urge the joint select committee to exercise caution when considering many of the existing deficit reduction proposals relating to service-member benefits,” McKeon wrote on behalf of Republican members of his panel.

“Avoid to the greatest possible extent adopting multiple simultaneous changes to military retirement and health care,” he said. The “combined effects will have a devastating impact on the fiscal and quality of life of military retirees.”

Military benefits must be viewed with the dangers and the extended absences from family in mind, McKeon said. The benefits must also be formulated “in the context of expected life stream earnings.”

If the supercommittee fails to produce a plan that Congress would pass and President Barack Obama sign, government-wide cutbacks would be triggered. Defense would automatically be cut by $500 billion, not including interest, over the next decade.

If that happens the Pentagon would have its budget cut to about $437 billion -- about the same amount as in fiscal year 2003, McKeon said. The Pentagon would operate under such a budget through 2021, according to McKeon.

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