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Pentagon pressured to cut budget

July 23, 2010 at 11:22 AM   |   Comments

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WASHINGTON, July 23 (UPI) -- The U.S. Defense Department finds itself pressured to rein in its spending for the first time since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, officials said.

Lawmakers, White House officials and analysts said huge budget deficits, the winding down of the war in Iraq and President Obama's pledge to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan in 2011 give Congress pause in contemplating the Pentagon's future budgetary requests, The New York Times reported Friday.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has tried to counter budget-cutting demands by saying he can wring more efficiency from the department's bureaucracy and weapons programs and use the savings to maintain the military.

In the near term, congressional Democrats are acting faster than senior Pentagon officials said they expected in trimming the administration's budget request for next year, the Times said.

As concern about the government's $13 trillion debt grows, a bipartisan deficit-reduction commission has warned military spending cuts may be needed to help the nation right itself financially.

"We're going to have to take a hard look at defense if we are going to be serious about deficit reduction," said Erskine Bowles, a chief of staff to former President Bill Clinton and a co-chairman of the deficit commission.

Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., the commission's other co-chairman, said if the panel pushes for cuts in discretionary spending, "defense should be looked at."

Gates has called for the Pentagon's long-term budget to grown at 1 percent a year after inflation, plus the costs of the war, the Times said. If the budget can grow at that rate, Gates said, he can find the necessary savings to reinvest in the military.

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