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Defense warily eyes next phase in deficit deal

You read here on Tuesday that some key defense advocates may've had a shot at getting seats on the Super Congress -- but that's not how it turned out. Neither House Armed Services Committee chairman Rep. Buck McKeon nor other Republican HASC members ended up on the panel, which has led to nervousness in the military-industrial complex about whether the "super committee" will be looking out for it.

But as John Bennett writes in The Hill newspaper, just because the Super Congress doesn't have any defense diehards doesn't mean it could be looking at more spending reductions going forward:

There is not one pro-Pentagon hardliner in [the] group, but that does not mean [House Speaker John] Boehner is endorsing big military budget cuts, according to a senior House Armed Services Committee majority aide. “It appears this committee has been, as far as Speaker Boehner’s selections go, to take a hard look at entitlement spending,” the HASC majority aide told The Hill. “And that is entirely appropriate since there are no more savings possible in the DoD budget.”
Bennett goes on to write that, given the Pentagon's sky-is-falling warnings about more reductions, and the focus of the Super Congress on entitlement reform, the super-lawmakers might not even pay much attention to DoD.
“The principal purpose of the supercommittee is to negotiate a broadly acceptable compromise on entitlement cuts, in exchange for targeted tax increases,” said Jim McAleese, the principal at consultancy McAleese & Associates. “Ironically, the more focused the supercommittee is on negotiating compromise on both entitlements and revenues, the more likely defense will be protected by default.”

That’s because the special panel could spend most of its time zeroed in on the difference between the cost of entitlement programs and federal receipts, McAleese said. That would leave little time to focus on “the $1.1 trillion federal discretionary budget, of which DoD comprises 50 percent,” he said.

So the new consensus building around town is that Team America's main goal is dealing with the "mandatory" side of the budget, to try to hammer out some compromise on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. But just because that's where it'll be focused doesn't mean it'll get a deal -- in fact, that could be another reason to be skeptical that it will. Show Full Article

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