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Report: Panetta To Unveil Defense Cuts This Week

After U.S. troops pulled out of Iraq, officials are talking cuts in the defense budget.
Lucas Jackson
After U.S. troops pulled out of Iraq, officials are talking cuts in the defense budget.

We knew defense cuts were coming, but The New York Times is reporting that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta will unveil $450 billion in cuts this week. With the announcement, reports the Times, will also come a new philosophy for the Pentagon.

The Times reports:

"In a shift of doctrine driven by fiscal reality and a deal last summer that kept the United States from defaulting on its debts, Mr. Panetta is expected to outline plans for carefully shrinking the military — and in so doing make it clear that the Pentagon will not maintain the ability to fight two sustained ground wars at once.

"Instead, he will say that the military will be large enough to fight and win one major conflict, while also being able to 'spoil' a second adversary's ambitions in another part of the world while conducting a number of other smaller operations, like providing disaster relief or enforcing a no-flight zone."

As Time's Battleland blog points out, there's not a ton of news there, because the story doesn't point out any specifics. But the Times story does manage to put defense cuts in perspective.

If you remember, Panetta has told Congress he is OK with the $450 billion in cuts agreed to during the debt ceiling debate. But because the supercommittee failed to come to an agreement, the Pentagon could be facing automatic cuts of up to $600 billion. Panetta has said these kinds of cuts would mean "we'd be shooting ourselves in the head."

But the Times looks at the cuts in defense after the end of big wars and finds that an 8 percent cut — which is what $450 billion amounts to — wouldn't be huge. Plus, they add, some in Washington are talking about much bigger cuts.

The Times adds:

"Mr. Panetta and defense hawks say a reduction of $1 trillion, about 17 percent of the Pentagon's base budget, would be ruinous to national security. Democrats and a few Republicans say that it would be painful but manageable; they add that there were steeper military cuts after the Cold War and the wars in Korea and Vietnam.

"'Even at a trillion dollars, this is a shallower build-down than any of the last three we've done,' said Gordon Adams, who oversaw military budgets in the Clinton White House and is now a fellow at the Stimson Center, a nonprofit research group in Washington. 'It would still be the world's most dominant military. We would be in an arms race with ourselves.'"

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.