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Budget Countdown: The Week Ahead

It's 11 days until either the Tea Party drives America to the brink of insolvency, the brave GOP drives the Democrats back from their mad pursuit of a more bloated and tyrannical federal government, or bold politicians on both sides hammer out a way to avoid shutting down the federal government on March 4. Choose your result according to your politics.

For those of us who lived through the last serious budget showdown under Clinton administration, we remember the shutdown of services in Washington (since we depend on federal money), the fear for the country's future and the enormous backlash the GOP suffered in the wake of the two shutdowns. Stan Collender, one of the brightest budget gurus in Washington, has predicted there will be at least one shutdown. The technical reason this time will be refusal by the GOP to raise the federal debt ceiling, meaning that the country will not be able to service its debt and keep the cash flowing.

That, combined with what looks likely to be a standoff between the GOP-controlled House and the Democratic-controlled Senate over a spending bill for the current fiscal year, could wreak havoc with the Defense Department's spending plans. Since Congress is on recess the rest of this week, it must solve these conundrums in just one week. While House Speaker John Boehner has made some noises indicating he may not favor a shutdown. But he's also clearly keeping his options open, with one eye on the Tea Party. After all, the deficit hawks convincingly brushed aside Boehner and other supporters of the F136 engine made by GE and Rolls Royce to pass an amendment stripping the $450 million in funding from the 2011 spending bill (technically a Continuing Resolution).

The only hot date on this week's calendar is Tuesday evening, when Ash Carter, head of Pentagon acquisition, speaks before the Center for a New American Security. His address has a great title: Doing More Without Doing More. It could become the Pentagon's mantra of the next few years.

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