Hagel: $1 trillion in defense cuts expected
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.
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