Liberal Democrats say Pentagon spending cuts should be doubled

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By Jeremy Herb – 01/27/12

The White House should cut nearly twice the $487 billion by which it has committed to reducing the Pentagon’s budget, said Rep. Barney Frank (Mass.) and three other liberal Democrats.

They said the planned cuts, announced Thursday by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, don’t go nearly far enough to reduce the defense budget.

“The Cold War is long over, and no remotely comparable adversary has emerged or is likely to emerge,” the Democrats wrote in a letter to Obama. “We believe that savings of around $900 billion over the next 10 years can be realized … We ask you to take even bolder leadership on this issue as you finalize your budget.”

Besides Frank, Reps. Barbara Lee (Calif.), Rush Holt (N.J.) and Lynn Woolsey (Calif.) signed on to the letter calling for deep spending cuts and the withdrawal of U.S. troops in Afghanistan this year.

The Democrats’ call for a smaller Pentagon budget stands in stark contrast to Republican howls Thursday that the new cuts threaten to hollow out the military.

The fight over Pentagon spending on both sides of the ledger is only going to amplify as the year progresses and the Pentagon faces a cut even larger than the four Democrats are asking for, should the $500 billion through sequestration take effect in January 2013.

In announcing the new U.S. military strategy last month, Obama said the military would become leaner, but more agile.

In the Democrats’ letter, they wrote that there’s more meat on the bone to be trimmed further.

The group wrote that withdrawing this year from Afghanistan could save “hundreds of billions of dollars,” and argued that keeping U.S. troops there until 2014 won’t have much effect on the capability of the Afghan Security Forces, which are supposed to take over at that point.

The group wrote that between the drawdowns in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars and the reductions of troops in Europe, the United States should be able “to reduce our 1.5 million member active-duty military by much more than the roughly 100,000 troops you have stated is your goal.”

Reducing troops in Europe should be a “first step,” the Democrats wrote, pointing to the Marine base in Okinawa, Japan, as another good example.

The lawmakers also urged the president to reduce the “nuclear triad” of land, sea and air delivery systems to two, an issue that has been hotly debated in anticipation of the budget cuts. Panetta announced Thursday that the United States will maintain all three systems, although there will be delay in the construction of a new nuclear submarine.

Originally posted on The Hill

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