Year-Ahead Tipsheet: Budget cuts will again dominate defense debates in 2012

The failure of the supercommittee to slash $1.2 trillion in federal spending pointed the Pentagon toward $600 billion in cuts over a decade. That would be in addition to what the Defense Department said will be a $450 billion cut already being enacted.

Pentagon officials and hawkish lawmakers say nearly $1 trillion in cuts would create a “hollow force” that might struggle to carry out some missions. 

GOP lawmakers are fighting back, with House and Senate Republicans announcing plans to replace the $600 billion in cuts with other federal spending reductions.

But they face an uphill fight, with a list of Democrats telling The Hill last week that any such bill must include new revenues to gain their support.


“The bottom line is they can’t even get 60 votes in the Senate,” said Gordon Adams, who oversaw defense budgeting for the Clinton administration. “Why would anyone think that the [defense] authorizers are going to stop this? They don’t even control their own caucus.

“This exercise will land in the same bonfire” that others have “for the last two years. This issue is not resolvable until the [day] after the first Tuesday in November 2012.”

As with every other national-security issue, President Obama’s GOP opponent is sure to pin the coming $600 billion in cuts on the sitting commander in chief.

Republican candidates already are blasting Obama’s Afghanistan war plans, something sure to continue in 2012.

GOP candidates and lawmakers say Obama is basing his plans on electoral politics ahead of winning the decade-old war.

Rising star Sen. Marco RubioMarco RubioMexican politicians have a new piñata: Donald Trump Bush ethics lawyer: Congress must tell Trump not to fire Mueller The private alternative to the National Flood Insurance Program  MORE (R-Fla.), seen by many as a potential 2012 vice presidential candidate, charged last week that Obama’s plan to withdraw 20,000 American troops from Afghanistan by next fall — and all U.S. forces by 2014 — is mostly “about fulfilling a campaign promise.”

Rubio said Iraq and Afghanistan would become “prime breeding grounds for al Qaeda” if they “fall back into chaos” after U.S. troops are gone. And he said Obama’s policies are setting the stage for just that.

There have been whispers in defense circles that Obama early next year will announce the next phase of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. 

Republicans claim U.S. generals in theater say they need as many troops as possible for as long as possible to build on gains made in 2011. This fight will only intensify in 2012 when it is thrust under the scalding spotlight of the presidential election campaign.