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Lawmakers, Industry Gear Up For Budget Battle

Posted by Carlo Munoz on

Washington: Defense hawks and defense industry supporters are ramping up the rhetoric as they prepare to battle for defense dollars on Capitol Hill.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta plans to meet tomorrow with top defense industry leaders as Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee prepares to weigh in on defense spending levels for fiscal year 2012.

“The Secretary is looking forward to hearing the views of industry leaders. He believes that a strong and healthy defense industrial base is vital to our national security,” DoD spokesman George Little said regarding tomorrow’s sit down.

During the pow-wow, Panetta plans to hammer home the need for closer cooperation between the department and industry, to meet the “the twin imperatives of strong national defense and fiscal discipline,” Little said.

For their part, industry officials will argue that pushing past the anticipated $315 billion in defense cuts over the next decade would leave thousands of Americans out of work.

Lawmakers have argued that foreign military sales of U.S. hardware, such as fighter planes and naval ships, would be enough to support the defense workforce, according to recent reports in the Wall Street Journal.

However, the anti-war group Brave New Foundation is claiming that further investment in the defense sector would only preserve a minimal amount of U.S jobs, compared to other areas of the economy.

But the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee isn’t having any of such arguments.

Rep. Buck McKeon said today that the U.S. military is “falling into disrepair” and will fall even further if DoD coffers trimmed further.

“We have laid out over half-a-trillion dollars in projected cuts to Pentagon spending. . . I cannot understate how dangerous these defense cuts have become,” McKeon said during a speech at the conservative think tank, American Enterprise Institute.

The rising tide on the Hill for defense reductions has put the country on a track where “we are sliding back to a place we pledged never to return to,” McKeon said.

With the services reeling from nearly a decade of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Obama administration should be looking to rebuild those forces, not cut them down to the bone, he said.

“As we begin to emerge from a long, tough fight, this should be the time to reset and rebuild our military,” the HASC chairman said. “Instead, we are lowering our gloves.”

By cutting defense past the $315 billion mark, the United States will be “repeating the mistakes of a September 10th America” and will be left to suffer the consequences, McKeon said.

What do you think?