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Panetta to Unveil Plan for Military Cuts

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Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is expected to unveil his plan later this week for cutting hundreds of billions of dollars from the U.S. military budget in coming years. He will address this and other matters related to the Defense Department in an interview with senior correspondent Jeffrey Brown on the PBS NewsHour this Thursday, Jan. 5.

In a front-page story Tuesday, the New York Times reported that the cuts are part of the Obama Administration’s strategy to address the fiscal constraints of a sluggish economy, to comply with the terms of deficit-spending deal that Congress struck last summer, and to reconfigure the size of the U.S. military force as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down.

Cuts to virtually every area of military spending are reported to be on the table, including state-of-the-art aircraft projects, warships, the nuclear arsenal, military salaries, and health and retirement benefits.

The White House and the Pentagon agreed last summer to approximately $450 billion in cuts — roughly 8 percent of the Pentagon’s base budget — over the next decade. Most lawmakers from across the political spectrum are said to agree with those reductions.

But a further $500 billion in cuts favored by many Democrats and a handful of Republicans could stir heated debate in Congress in the coming months.

For his part, Mr. Panetta has already made his case in a letter to House members that a $1 trillion — or 17 percent — reduction to the defense budget would seriously degrade the country’s defense capabilities. Many military budget specialists counter that the Pentagon underwent steeper cuts in the aftermath of the Cold War and U.S involvement in Vietnam.

The New York Times invites the public to weigh in on these decisions through an interactive budget calculator on its website.

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