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Hill Worries DoD Is Dragging Feet On Deficit Plan

Posted by Carlo Munoz on

Washington: The top two lawmakers on the Senate Armed Services Committee today demanded assurances that DoD is ready, willing and able to push the White House’s debt reduction plan through Capitol Hill.

Committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin and Ranking Member Sen. John McCain DoD acquisition chief Ash Carter to task today on why the department has yet to turn over key information on how it will slash $315 billion from its coffers over the next ten years.

Carter, testifying at his confirmation hearing to replace Bill Lynn as the No. 2 official at DoD, pledged that DoD is and will continue to be in close consultation with the Hill as it begins work on the Obama administration’s deficit reduction plan.

“Consultation is important, but what we need is recommendations,” Levin replied.

More troubling is news that the Pentagon’s ongoing roles and missions review — which former Defense Secretary Robert Gates started specifically to find ways the department can meet that debt reduction goal — will not be done until next year.

That delay, said McCain, was simply “unacceptable” since it would mean the DoD review would miss the SASC deadline for getting defense reduction recommendations to the Super Committee.

The congressional defense committees have until this October to submit their recommendations for national security spending cuts to the Super Committee. The bipartisan panel will then have to come up with nearly $1.2 trillion in savings across the government, including DoD.
But before defense lawmakers can offer up their proposals, it must get the necessary information from the Pentagon.

That information will include details on when and how the department will cut spending and the potential impacts to national security priorities if the Super Committee misses its cost cutting goals.

With roughly a month to go until the deadline, Levin and McCain made it crystal clear to Carter and the rest of the department that time was running out.

If the Super Committee cannot hit that $1.2 trillion goal, it will force the White House to trigger an automatic, $600 billion across-the-board cut to national security spending, which is known as the “doomsday” scenario on the Hill.

Of that amount, DoD would likely be forced to shoulder half — or $300 billion — of those cuts alone, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Buck McKeon said yesterday.

For his part, Carter reassured Levin and McCain that the Pentagon is and will be ready to provide Capitol Hill all the information it needs to implement the defense spending cuts called for in the deficit plan.

Moreover, Carter guaranteed that once confirmed, he plans to immediately send over a detailed time table as to when DoD would hand over the necessary information.

While that timeline is still a work in progress, the presumptive deputy defense secretary said the Hill would get what it needs from DoD before the October deadline.

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