Washington: One of the key figures in the battle to lower America’s federal debt told a conservative gathering today that he would quit the so-called Super Committee if it tried to make cuts to the Pentagon’s budget beyond those already promised by the Obama administration.
Sen. Jon Kyl, one of the fiercest Republican lawmakers, said he told GOP mandarins that he would quit the Super Committee if it pushed for more defense cuts. “Defense has given enough already,” he said he told his fellow Republicans.
Kyl went further, telling the crowd of several hundred gathered to hear GOP lawmakers speak about defense and the Super Committee, that he “would do my best to prevent that sequestration on defense.” The event was put on by the Heritage Foundation, American Enterprise Institute and the Foreign Policy Initiative.
Kyl was joined in this view by fellow Republican senator Lindsay Graham. He made an impassioned speech, chiding his fellow Republicans for abandoning a strong defense by agreeing to the administration’s planned cuts of $315 billion over the next decade.
“This pisses me off beyond belief that our party would subject the Department of Defense not just to more cuts, but to the end of the finest force ever created in the history of the world,” Lindsay said. “This budget deal is a philosophical shift that I will have no part of.” Graham said.
The South Carolina lawmaker did concede that Pentagon contracting needs improving. “We need to fundamentally change the way we buy big weapons,” he said.
Meanwhile, the GOP-led House Armed Services Committee called three of the country’s top retired military leaders to testify on the possible implications of defense cuts. Many defense analysts have argued that the best place to find money is in personnel accounts, simply because that’s where the Pentagon spends the most money and America has committed to winding down its troop presence in Iraq and Afghanistan.
But former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, retired Gen. Peter Pace, told the HASC this morning that force structure is “…the very last place I would cut before I know what the strategy is and how many troops are necessary for it.”
His Joint Chiefs colleague, retired Gen. Richard Myers, stressed that rapid drawdown of troops could have the gravest effect a military commander fears: it “could break unit integrity.”
Myers and Pace both expressed concern that reducing the U.S. presence overseas — something a number of defense experts have advocated — would essentially lead to the diminution of America’s fundamental position as a superpower.
Pace put the quandary simply. “If you cut my power projection then you are no longer a superpower. Either have us overseas deployed or give me the resources to get there in time.” Myers said there was little stretch left in U.S forces deployed to Europe, saying, “we are pretty close to minimal numbers now in Europe.”
While some of this concern about defense cuts is clearly grandstanding, the testimony of two of America’s top military commanders — retired, it’s true — when joined with the opposition of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to further defense cuts, shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand by Americans of either party.