Dem: 'Defense is going to get crucified'

Pro-defense lawmakers must push a broad economic reform plan if they hope to keep the Pentagon budget from being "crucified," Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) said Thursday.

Smith, the ranking member on the House Armed Services Committee, reiterated that he agrees with panel Republicans that additional military budget cuts would undercut national security.

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Republicans on Armed Services have argued passionately against cuts beyond the $350 billion ordered by the August debt deal. If the congressional supercommittee fails to find at least $1.2 trillion in federal cuts by Thanksgiving, the Pentagon would take the bulk of another $600 billion cut.

The push from those Republicans, however, has focused on making the case for a strong military and highlighting the economic impacts of more Pentagon cuts.

But in a speech at the conservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI), Smith said "you have to give them more," referring to the members of the supercommittee.

Because cuts beyond the ones the special panel might cobble together — or those that would triggered if it fails — are needed, pro-defense lawmakers have to talk in broader terms, Smith said.

If they don’t, "Defense is going to get crucified," Smith said.

Increasing federal revenues, something his Republican cohorts on the panel reject, should be part of that broader pitch against big military spending cuts.

A new national security strategy that reflects the current fiscal environment also is needed, Smith said.

If Pentagon allies resist moving to a broader message, the budget-cutting "snowball is going to roll ... over you," Smith said.

The ranking Armed Services Democrat made clear he supports maintaining a strong U.S. military, saying its presence and ability to "project power" around the world is key to global stability.

Smith said a new strategy must answer questions such as: "Can we project that power in a cheaper way?"

To that end, Kurt Campbell, a senior State Department official, recently told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that the Obama administration is shifting its foreign policy focus from the Middle East to Asia.

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That shift, which will take years, will include moving military assets from the Middle East to Asia as the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts end, Campbell said.

Testifying before the same panel Thursday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reiterated that shift, saying much of the history of this century "will be written in Asia."

For that reason, she said, America must be a major player "militarily, economically and politically."

"This administration is focused on Asia," Clinton said, while keeping an emphasis on fighting terrorism in the Middle East.

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