Pentagon Says It’s Unprepared for Budget Cuts Triggered by Supercommittee’s Failure

The Supercommittee’s failure is set to trigger defense spending cuts that the Pentagon says are unacceptable.

Pentagon Says It's Unprepared for Budget Cuts Triggered by Supercommittee's Failure

Since the Congressional Supercommittee announced on Monday that there was no hope of it actually doing its job of crafting a plan to reduce the federal deficit by $1.2 trillion, we’ve seen headlines about how this actually might be a good thing.

With the Supercommittee’s failure, automatic measures that will both cut spending and raise taxes on the wealthy by allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire will be triggered, ostensibly making both Democrats and Republicans happy.

One man who will not be happy about this result, however, is Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

Of the $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts triggered by the Supercommitte’s failure, about half of it—$500 billion—will come in the form of defense spending cuts. This $500 billion comes on top of a $450 billion reduction over the next 10 years that the Pentagon agreed to last summer.

The New York Times reports that while some military analysts say the additional $500 billion in cuts is do-able for the military, Leon Panetta insists the Pentagon is totally unprepared for this size cut, and that such a move would seriously jeopardize national security.

In fact, he’s so convinced of this that the Pentagon isn’t even planning for the possibility—instead, Pentagon officials are pressing Congress to ensure the cuts never come to fruition.

From The New York Times:

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta has painted such an apocalyptic vision of America’s national security under $500 billion in automatic defense budget cuts that Pentagon officials said Tuesday they were pushing back at Congress — and not even planning for the spending reductions, which are to take effect in January 2013.

He has publicly opposed the $500 billion in additional cuts, which he described in a statement on Monday as tearing “a seam in the nation’s defense.” In a heated letter to the Senate Armed Services Committee last week, Mr. Panetta declared that over a decade the cuts would lead to “the smallest ground force since 1940, the smallest number of ships since 1915 and the smallest Air Force in its history.”

The scary thing here isn’t so much that we’re pondering cuts in defense spending—defense spending is out of control, and this spring the Joint Chiefs of Staff even recommended cutting back. What is scary, however, is that these decisions aren’t being crafted consciously. Rather, we’re allowing policy to be shaped by a default trigger put in place as a contingency that no one wanted, which was created as a fail-safe that no one expected to materialize. Even this Congress wouldn’t be so incompetent as to let this Supercommittee fall on its face.

It seems there’s no one at the wheel, here. Rather than making smart decisions, we’re letting our course be determined by automatic triggers set off by abject failure.