Former UN ambassador Bolton blasts defense cuts in bipartisan debt deal

Debt-ceiling negotiations risk leaving the nation's defense budget in “grave jeopardy,” former United Nations ambassador John Bolton wrote on his website Sunday.

The comments, published on DecideAmerica.com, come as lawmakers and the White House are negotiating a two-pronged deficit-reduction strategy that would start with almost $1 trillion in cuts to domestic and defense spending.

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Bolton is worried about a proposed “trigger mechanism” that would require lawmakers to make more cuts if they can't agree to a second round of deficit reduction later this year.

“By exposing critical defense programs to disproportionate cuts as part of the ‘trigger mechanism,’ there is a clear risk that key defense programs will be hollowed out,” Bolton wrote. “While the trigger mechanism comes into play only if the congressional negotiators fail to reach agreement on the second phase of spending cuts, it verges on catastrophe to take such a national security risk.”

The administration is pressing for defense cuts to be included in the trigger to compel both GOP and Democratic lawmakers to reach a deal on a second round of cuts.

Bolton’s comments, however, could make it tougher for Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to round up votes in the House on the emerging deal. On Saturday, GOP lawmakers were fretting about cuts in a debt-ceiling proposal from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) that some said would hit the Pentagon too hard.

President Obama had called for almost $500 billion in cuts to defense spending over a decade as part of deficit talks. Still, the president's proposed defense budget for fiscal 2012 was $671 billion, the highest since World War II.

“Defense has already taken hugely disproportionate cuts under President Obama, and there is simply no basis for expanding those cuts further,” Bolton wrote. “Republican negotiators must hold the line, since the Obama Administration plainly will not.”