With half the Pentagon budget spent on pay and benefits, the military is focusing on ways to hold down expenditures in housing, education, and health, because unless Congress lifts the sequester, the Defense budget will have to be slashed by an additional $52 billion in January.
Some $41 billion has already been cut from military spending this year. Unless Congress agrees to lift the sequester, the Defense budget will need to be cut by another $52 billion in January.
The 2013 Defense budget stands at approximately $633.3 billion, the Journal reported.
As a consequence of the cuts, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said, the size of the force available to meet new contingencies is shrinking. Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has warned that unless the sequester is lifted some units would not be ready for war.
Making up reduced funding by curbing the growth in personnel benefits could run into opposition on Capitol Hill.
A congressional commission is reviewing military compensation and benefits and has yet to deliver its findings. Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon, R.-Calif., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, told the Journal that he "would like to see how much we can get out of institutional reform before we look at cutting benefits for the troops."
Any cuts in Pentagon growth are unlikely to immediately effect the benefits received by service members and retirees.
Budget planners are looking at long haul cuts rather than penny pinching annual expenditures. "We have the analytic tools that potentially we didn't have before," Dempsey said. "We have a body of knowledge that has convinced us doing it once is the right answer."
Leon Panetta, the former defense secretary, recently said, "You can't expect this country to maintain a strong military if we aren't maintaining some kind of common-sense budgeting. We are sending a message that the United States is going to be weak and that is the wrong message to send."
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