Reed: Pentagon should prep for cuts

Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), an Army veteran and senior defense authorizer, on Wednesday said that the Pentagon will have to face “painful adjustments” in its budget.

Reed, the new chairman of the Senate Armed Services Seapower panel, indicated that weapons modernization will suffer in years to come as a result of military operations in Afghanistan, but also because of the economic crisis.

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The Democrat said that he does not believe the defense budget will be increased, but acknowledged that the Pentagon will incur significant costs paying for the military personnel alone.

“It is going to be a difficult time,” he said at a breakfast with reporters.

“There is going to be significant pressure on the defense budget going forward. […] I do not think there is going to be much relief on the personnel front … so the likely path is to push and delay platforms that you do not think are absolutely essential,” he said. Additionally, he said, weapons programs that continue likely will have to be reduced and bought in smaller numbers, in what will be “painful adjustments” for the Department of Defense.

“There is a domestic crisis now that is requiring significant unexpected resources and then the good news is when we fix it then we have the challenge and opportunity to fix the deficit,” Reed said. “That is tough going.”

Meanwhile, sending more troops to Afghanistan “is going to be very expensive and that has to be explicitly indicated … It’s in the billions of dollars,” he said. The costs would also add significantly when considering the large need for civilian experts on the ground there.

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Reed also supports shifting money from the Pentagon budget to help boost the civilian aid agencies, such as the U.S. Agency for International Development. Civilian aid is a much- needed ingredient in Afghanistan, but also Iraq, said Reed.