Share This Page

Hagel: $1 trillion in defense cuts expected

| Wednesday, April 3, 2013, 7:42 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told the Pentagon on Wednesday to brace for further possible cuts in Defense spending and said the military must make fundamental changes in the way it operates to cope with new fiscal realities.

Noting that the military has “grown enormously more expensive in every way” over the past decade, Hagel said the Pentagon must tackle soaring personnel costs; re-examine how it buys billion-dollar weapons systems; and “pare back the world's largest back office” as it shrinks the size of the armed forces in the coming years.

Hagel's two most recent predecessors — Robert Gates and Leon Panetta — made similar vows as they tried to tame the vast military bureaucracy. Neither had much success, however, as they struggled to persuade Congress to cut pet projects or scale back health and pension benefits for future generations of military personnel.

The difference now, Hagel said in his first major policy address since taking office, is that the Pentagon is staring at the likelihood that it will be forced to slash nearly $1 trillion in projected spending over the next decade — nearly double the level confronted by Gates and Panetta.

“A combination of fiscal pressures and a gridlocked political process has led to far more abrupt and deeper reductions than were planned,” Hagel, who took over as Defense secretary in February, told an audience at the National Defense University at Fort McNair in the District. Thomas Donnelly, a defense analyst at the American Enterprise Institute, said President Obama selected Hagel to run the Defense Department so that he could be “the front man” for further spending reductions.

“This is the next step, putting the Pentagon on notice that they intend to make more serious and very substantial cuts,” Donnelly said.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.