Pentagon Defends Efficiencies to Skeptical Congress

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Photo: aoc.gov

Some Capitol Hill lawmakers are skeptical of the Defense Department’s cost-saving measures, even as debate about the federal deficit continues to ratchet up ahead of the 2012 budget process.

Top Pentagon leaders defended Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates’ efficiency initiatives — which could free up as much as $78 billion from the bottom line —  to legislators in hearings this week.

Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn told the House Armed Services Committee, now under the Republican control of Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-Calif.), that DoD’s plan for $78 billion in cuts “strikes the right balance for these difficult times.”

But, some lawmakers weren’t having any of it, fearing that cuts to the military could undercut the services at a critical time.

“I will not support any measures that stress our forces and jeopardize the lives of our men and women in uniform,” McKeon said. “I will also oppose any plans that have the potential to damage or jeopardize our national security.”

In his congressional testimony, Lynn was joined by the vice chiefs of the military services, who said they had all worked collaboratively with the Pentagon to trim the budgets.

“We were part of that process and agreed with the decisions that have been made,” said Gen. Peter Chiarelli, Army vice chief of staff.

The decisions include canceling the Standoff Land Attack Missile and Rolling Airframe Missile and terminating the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle and the F-22 fighter jet.

DoD will also freeze most civilian personnel hiring and reduce the contractor work force by 10 percent for three years, Lynn told the committee.

All told, the $78 billion in cuts will leave the Pentagon with a baseline budget of $553, which is actually a modest increase over previous years.

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