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Panetta outlines defense cuts in budget

Jan. 26, 2012 at 5:08 PM   |   Comments

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WASHINGTON, Jan. 26 (UPI) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Thursday his 2013 budget request seeks increases for special operations and reductions in the end strength of the Army.

The Pentagon's topline budget request is $525 billion for fiscal 2013 -- down from $531 billion in fiscal 2012 -- and also includes reductions for the Marine Corps and maintaining the number of big-deck carriers, Panetta said, adding the Pentagon based its request on the new defense strategy guidance from President Barack Obama this month.

The request includes an additional $88.4 billion for overseas contingency operations, down from $115 billion this year, and also seeks additional domestic base realignments and closures.

But Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., said he is "not going to be able to support" base closures in the United States until some bases in Europe are scheduled for the chopping block, The New York Times reported.

"I think that some of these cuts are justified. I think a lot of them are not," U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said Thursday on the "Imus in the Morning" radio program. "We're already enacting $480 billion worth of cuts and then we're facing this, quote, sequestration because this super committee failed us, as you recall. We can't afford this -- these additional cuts."

"No part of the budget was unexamined," Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told reporters Thursday. "No part was sacrosanct. You see everything in here. I think we looked at everything."

Full pay raises will be in effect for 2013 and 2014, but the department "will achieve some cost savings by providing more limited pay raises beginning in 2015," Panetta said.

"We decided that to help control growth of healthcare costs, we are recommending increases in healthcare fees, co-pays and deductibles for retirees. But let me be clear that even after these increases, the cost borne by military retirees will remain below the levels in comparable private-sector plans."

Panetta said the "balanced, complete package" will put the Pentagon on track to save $259 billion in the next five years and $487 billion in the next 10.

"My hope is that when members understand the sacrifice involved in reducing the defense budget by half-a-trillion dollars, it will convince Congress to avoid sequestration, a further round of cuts that would inflict severe damage to our national defense for generations," he said.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno will brief the media Friday on the impact to the Army of the Defense Department Strategic Guidance, the Pentagon said.

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