GOP chairmen want to know effect of huge spending cuts on national security

Three House Republican committee chairmen are pushing the Obama administration to explain how it anticipates up to $1 trillion in Defense cuts would affect U.S. national security.

The $350 billion in national security budget shrinkage mandated in a debt-ceiling deal signed into law by President Obama on Aug. 2 “would be an unprecedented drawdown in Defense while U.S. forces are committed to contingency operations,” the three GOP chairmen wrote to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and White House budget chief Jack Lew in an Aug. 10 letter.

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“More troubling than the lack of any historical precedent, however, is that this decision to reduce defense spending … has preceded any substantial analysis of the future roles, missions, and capabilities we want our military to perform,” wrote House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), Appropriations Defense subcommittee Chairman Bill Young (R-Fla.) and Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-Calif.).

The Hill obtained a copy of the letter.

The GOP trio notes that the Budget Control Act of 2011, for the first time in U.S. history, defines national security agencies as the Pentagon, the Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs departments, the intelligence community, international affairs, and the National Nuclear Security Administration.

“There is, however, no agreement in the … act as to the appropriate level of funding for any individual department or agency within that security category,” the letter states.

The debt deal signed into law Aug. 2 by President Obama mandates $350 billion in defense cuts over 10 years. If the super panel fails to produce massive federal spending cuts by Nov. 23, the Pentagon and other national security agencies would face around $600 billion in additional cuts through 2023.

“It is imperative that members of Congress, and particularly members of our committees, obtain a better understanding of the impact of these reductions on the Defense Department and its ability to meet its mission,” the chairmen wrote.

The Pentagon began leading a soup-to-nuts national security strategy review after Obama in April called for $400 billion in Defense and security spending cuts. That work will now inform the debt law’s $350 billion in cuts.

Because fiscal year 2011 will end Sept. 30, Ryan, Young and McKeon want details of what that review has concluded thus far because “determining final funding levels for DoD will be a high priority when Congress reconvenes in September.”

The GOP chairmen also want Panetta and Lew to spell out “the national security consequences” should the super panel fail, setting off $1 trillion in security spending cuts through 2023.