As time runs out for the Super Committee of twelve House and Senate Members to strike a deal to reduce the federal deficit by $1.5 trillion, there is growing concern that failure by the committee would trigger a sequestration (automatic cut) of $600 billion or more at the Defense Department. This would be on top of $850 billion in cuts over a decade already announced by the Obama Administration, including cancelling 50 weapons programs, as national security expert Peter Brookes explained recently on these pages.
The Super Committee idea and the threat of automatic cuts through a sequester was a component of the compromise reached last summer to increase the federal debt ceiling.
The good news – maybe – is that, "Several members of Congress, especially Republicans on the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, are readying legislation that would undo the automatic across-the-board cuts" according to a New York Times report.
Mike Conaway (R-TX), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said "most of us will move heaven and earth to find an alternative that prevents a sequester from happening." That assessment is shared by many Democrats, too. John Garamendi (D-CA) was adamant. "The sequester will never take place," he said. "It's not going to happen."
Senator Carl Levin, the Democrat Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, says that the announced Pentagon cuts will be "very difficult to meet already," and so he, too, opposes further defense cuts through the sequester trigger.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff warned Congress in early November of the severe consequences to troop strength and defense capabilities if further cuts are mandated. Obama's Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, agreed saying that additional cuts "would do serious damage to our ability to be able to make the kind of changes in our defense structure that are responsible and that do protect this country for the future."
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