Tags: Hagel | Challenges | Budget | Cuts

Hagel Faces Big Challenges Over Budget Cuts

Sunday, 07 Apr 2013 02:45 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's call for a review of the military's strategy and budget cuts may face big challenges from Congress as elections approach.

In addition, some conservative analysts are skeptical that Hagel is committed to making some of the more dramatic cuts, The Hill reports, including increases in military healthcare costs for retirees or new rounds of base closures.

Hagel has said that all options are on the table, but Mackenzie Eaglen, a defense analyst for the conservative American Enterprise Institute, noted he has warned that some “dramatic changes” may be “unwise, untenable or politically impossible.”

Eaglen said Hagel's own statements give him a “massive out from making real change” if the cuts aren't supported.

The new secretary of defense discussed several changes this past week, but they likely will not be in President Barack Obama's budget, to be released Wednesday. Instead, his strategy review and this year's Quadrennial Defense Review will likely appear in the 2015 defense budget, meaning lawmakers seeking re-election in 2014 may be less likely to accept budget cuts.

Hagel is continuing some other efforts, such as former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's plans to reduce active-duty troops and close some bases, but they may not fare well.

Last year, Congress rejected many of Panetta's changes, including requests for two new rounds of base closures and increasing healthcare costs for military retirees. And earlier this year, lawmakers told a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee that they would reject any new requests to close bases.

Regardless, the Pentagon is facing several budgetary cuts, including $41 billion from the 2013 budget alone and other major cuts in future years. However, Pentagon officials say the budget proposal being released this week will be at pre-sequester levels, so the it could face across-the-board sequester cuts as well.



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