Sunday October 4th, 2015 5:21PM

Fiscal cliff offers hint at more defense cuts

By The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) -- House Republicans' "fiscal cliff" counteroffer to President Barack Obama hints at billions of dollars in military cuts on top of the nearly $500 billion that the White House and Congress backed last year, and even the fiercest defense hawks acknowledge that the Pentagon faces another financial hit.

The proposal that House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and other Republican leaders sent to the White House this week calls for cuts of $300 billion in discretionary spending to achieve savings of $2.2 trillion over 10 years. The blueprint offered no specifics on the cuts, although the Pentagon and defense-related departments such as Homeland Security and State make up roughly half of the federal government's discretionary spending.

By any credible calculation, the military, which is still coming to grips with the half-trillion-dollar cut in last year's deficit-cutting law, is looking at an additional $10 billion to $15 billion cut in projected defense spending each year for the next decade. It's a prospect that Republicans recognize is the new reality, with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan ending and deficits demanding deep cuts.

"Not too devastating," said Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee. That's especially true compared with the alternative that McCain dreads - the double hit of tax hikes and automatic spending cuts dubbed the fiscal cliff.

If Obama and Congress are unable to reach a deal this month, the Pentagon would face across-the-board cuts of some $55 billion after the first of the year and nearly $500 billion over a decade. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and military leaders have warned that such a meat-ax approach to the budget would do considerable harm.

"My job is to stop sequestration," McCain said, using the budgetary term for the automatic cuts.

Pentagon spending still has its congressional protectors, especially with job-producing weapons, aircraft and ships built in nearly every corner of the country. In the past decade, the base defense budget has nearly doubled, from $297 billion in 2001 to more than $520 billion. The amount does not include the billions spent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The cuts Obama and Congress are talking about would be to projected spending that envisioned Pentagon budgets rising to levels of more than $700 billion a year in a decade. Tea partyers and fiscal conservatives recently elected to Congress have shown a willingness to cut defense, traditionally considered almost untouchable.

"We understand that in getting to an agreement that drives down the debt ... that there are going to be cuts," said Rep. Austin Scott, R-Ga., president of the 2010 freshman class in the House. "Making cuts strategically makes sense. Doing it through sequestration does not make sense.

"I would argue that intelligence, especially with regard to cybersecurity, is probably an area where we need to spend more money," Scott added. "I'm worried more about China using viruses and technology against our country than I am about their aircraft carriers. At the same time, look at other areas of the military and say, `When is the next time we really need that weapon system?'"

Said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., of additional cuts, "Potentially, yes, but not a trillion."

Lawmakers who are realistic about defense cuts suddenly have some significant reinforcements.

A coalition of prominent Republicans and Democrats, including former defense, state and treasury secretaries as well as military and congressional leaders, made an urgent plea Tuesday to Obama and Congress to reach a deal on the nation's finances.

At a news conference a few blocks from the Capitol, the group called the national debt "the single greatest threat to our national security." The coalition also was running full-page ads in major newspapers on Wednesday calling on Washington leaders to consider every possible step to help fix the fiscal crisis, from raising tax rates to changes to Medicare and Social Security to cuts in defense.

"In our judgment, advances in technological capabilities and the changing nature of threats make it possible, if properly done, to spend less on a more intelligent, efficient and contemporary defense strategy that maintains our military superiority and national security," the group said.

Among the members of the coalition are retired Adm. Michael Mullen, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; former defense secretaries Robert Gates and Frank Carlucci; Paul Volcker, the former chairman of the Federal Reserve; and former secretaries of state James Baker, Henry Kissinger and George Shultz.

Former Sens. Sam Nunn and John Warner, who once led the Armed Services Committee, also are members of the coalition.

Any deal between Obama and Boehner that avoids the fiscal cliff and reduces the deficit will still face some resistance among rank-and-file lawmakers over defense cuts, especially in the House. The reductions will be particularly hard for GOP lawmakers who were counting on Mitt Romney to win the White House and try to reverse the cuts in defense.

Some lawmakers said the nearly $500 billion in cuts in the budget deal last year were hard enough.

"I felt that those cuts were plenty deep," said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, a member of the Armed Services Committee. "They caused considerable reduction in the number of service members and raised some concerns whether we're going to be stretched too thin, and whether we're going to hollow out the services."

Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., a retired Army officer, said the budget law cuts are "quite sufficient" and any more reductions would have a serious impact on the military.

"How many more combat tours of duty do you want these young men and women to be doing, five or six tours of duty?" West said. "We're starting to break our military's back. The world is a more dangerous place. After every major combat engagement, we decimate our military and then we try to ramp up to play catch up in the next war."

The next solution, West said, would be for some members of Congress "to put on a helmet and fix a bayonet and they could go fight."
© Copyright 2015
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Doctors: Blood clot located in Clinton's head
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton developed a blood clot in her head but did not suffer a stroke or neurological damage, her doctors said Monday. They say they are confident that she will make a full recovery.
3:55PM ( 2 years ago )
Illinois Sen. Kirk to return a year after stroke
Nearly a year after a stroke left him barely able to move the left side of his body, U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk is expected to climb the 45 steps to the Senate's front door this week - a walk that's significant not just for Illinois' junior senator, but also for medical researchers and hundreds of thousands of stroke patients.
3:54PM ( 2 years ago )
U.S. News
Ga. ethics legislation could end free tickets
General Assembly approval next year of a proposed ethics reform measure could endanger an important fall tradition for Georgia lawmakers - free football tickets.
6:26PM ( 2 years ago )
Abortion restrictions, tax changes loom in Ga.
Tax breaks for manufacturers and higher unemployment taxes for employers take effect with the new year in Georgia, but it remains to be seen whether the state's newest abortion restrictions will be enforced.
6:23PM ( 2 years ago )
Business News
Couch names administrative team
Ahead of his scheduled swearing in Friday, Hall County Sheriff-elect Gerald Couch named his top administrative team Monday.
6:28PM ( 2 years ago )
Tech beats Southern California in Sun Bowl
Tevin Washington threw a touchdown pass and ran for another score to help Georgia Tech beat Southern California 21-7 on Monday in the Sun Bowl.
5:54PM ( 2 years ago )
Hall Co. officials launch health-based initiative for employees
Hall County officials believe healthy county employees will be of greater service to the county. With that in mind, they have created a health-based fitness initiative to provide free fitness training for county workers.
5:46PM ( 2 years ago )
Local/State News
Maine same-sex couples marry in first hours of law
After waiting years and seeing marriage rights nearly awarded and then retracted, gay couples in Maine's largest city didn't have to wait a moment longer than necessary to wed, with licenses issued at the stroke of midnight Friday as a new state law went into effect.
8:02AM ( 2 years ago )
Fresh fighting in C. African Republic; US leaves
Renewed fighting between government forces and rebels seeking to overthrow the president broke out Friday in Central African Republic's third largest city, a military official said, hours after the U.S. ambassador and his team were evacuated from the capital.
3:18PM ( 2 years ago )
White House meeting a last stab at a fiscal deal
A planned Friday afternoon meeting among congressional leaders and the president - their first since Nov. 16 - stands as a make-or-break moment for negotiations to avoid across-the-board first of the year tax increases and deep spending cuts - the fiscal cliff.
8:06AM ( 2 years ago )
UN is next stop for Obama after success with Iran, pope; top issues are IS, Syria, Russia
NEW YORK (AP) — Fresh from successes on Iran and with the pope, President Barack Obama still carried heavy burdens into critical meetings this week at the U.N. General Assembly.They include the threat...
3:31PM ( 1 week ago )
Stunning Congress, House Speaker Boehner announces plans to resign; tea party declares victory
WASHINGTON (AP) — Plunging Congress into deeper turmoil, House Speaker John Boehner abruptly announced his resignation Friday, shutting down a tea party drive to depose the nation's highest-ranking Re...
6:14PM ( 1 week ago )
Tornado heavily damages 10 homes but causes no injuries on island in South Carolina
JOHNS ISLAND, S.C. (AP) — A tornado quickly blew through a neighborhood on the South Carolina coast early Friday and blew out windows, knocked down trees and heavily damaged ten homes.The tornado touc...
5:08PM ( 1 week ago )
Caterpillar says it may cut more than 10,000 jobs by 2018, lowers 2015 revenue expectation
Caterpillar is planning another round of job cuts that could exceed 10,000 people through 2018, as the construction and mining equipment maker adjusts to downturns in key markets.That could amount to...
10:06AM ( 1 week ago )
Escaped tarantula grounds Atlanta-bound flight in Baltimore
An eight-legged creature that escaped in the cargo hold of a passenger flight from Baltimore-Washington International Airport to Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International grounded the plane and sent passengers onto another flight.
By The Associated Press
9:06AM ( 1 week ago )