A bipartisan panel led by the last people to effectively balance the federal budget wants defense spending frozen for five years, end strength cuts of 275,000 and boost Tricare copayments. The panel, led by former Sen. Pete Domenici, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, and Alice Rivlin, OMB director under President Clinton, recommends killing or deferring the F-35, V-22, Virginia subs and ballistic missile defense. (Rivlin is also a member of the presidential task force on deficit reduction.) Those cuts would bring defense spending down to levels last seen during the Clinton presidency of around 3 percent of GDP. The panel argues that these cuts would still leave the United States the most powerful military in the world, one able to deploy and fight globally. Keenly aware of the sensitivity of the proposal to make such deep and lasting defense cuts, Domenici tackled them at the beginning of his rollout speech at the Newseum in Washington. "For those who ask, must the military sacrifice also, everyone must sacrifice… so that this quiet killer will not eat us alive before we have a chance to fix what is our doing," he said. I asked Domenici if operational costs were included in the freeze and he said they were not. However, I believe they included in their defense baseline estimate the costs of 30,000 troops forward deployed as estimated by the Congressional Budget Office.. The group that advised Domenici and Rivlin ran their personnel numbers past service force structure experts, as well as the Institute for Defense Analysis and other federal advisory groups. Their personnel estimates were based on mission analysis. These proposals are sure to run into serious opposition once they hit the Hill. Rep. Buck McKeon, presumptive chair of the House Armed Services Committee, pledged on Monday to fight any real cuts to defense spending. And Sen. John McCain, ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, made it pretty clear the same say he is uncomfortable with what looks the Tea Party approach to defense spending and foreign policy. However, the fight over budget levels, which constrain what the appropriations and authorizing committees can do, will be intense when the budget committees set the limits. And the Tea Party may have strong representation on the Senate Budget Committee, where Sen.-elect Rand Paul hopes to gain a seat.
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