When we wrote in April that the U.S. could both build a smarter military and save $1 trillion in defense spending over the coming decade (out of a total of about $7 trillion), it seemed pretty radical. But President Obama has called for $400 billion in savings over the coming 12 years, and now there’s word that an even deeper cut — perhaps another $400 billion — may be coming. All of a sudden, cuts of up to $800 billion — within spitting distance of $1 trillion in this town — seem possible.
“I’m certainly doing budget drills beyond $400 billion,” Marine General James Cartwright, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Battleland over breakfast Thursday. The politically-astute four-star insisted he was merely exercising self-initiated due diligence. But a senior Pentagon official says the Office of Management and Budget has ordered the Pentagon to plan for cuts beyond that initial $400 billion bogey.
“The reality is you’re worried about a deeper cut,” Cartwright said. “Is there another $400 billion behind the first $400 billion — I don’t what the number is.” But even the suggestion that deeper cuts may be coming requires planning. “Let’s say $400 billion may not be all that hard to come up with, but the decisions you make, if you know you’re going to do more, may be very different decisions — so you have to look beyond that,” he told reporters. “So we’re doing due diligence on that — we’re going to go ahead and look beyond.
Responding to a follow-up from Battleland, Cartwright repeated $400 billion as the possible size of an additional cut: “If there is another $400 billion,” he said, “I do I want to make sure when I set myself up that I’m going to be able to do that.”