Senators have found six billion in potential cuts to bring next year’s proposed defense budget to $682 billion, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee said Friday.
“In this time of fiscal problems for our nation, I am pleased that we were able to support our troops and their families while finding savings of more than $6-billion,” said Senator Carl Levin told reporters.
He was discussing the completion of the so called “markup” of the bill by the committee. It now goes to the full Senate for debate.
He said that potential cuts covered a wide variety of programs and would include scrapping an air defense program, cuts to military construction and family housing projects and to an Army airborne reconnaissance program.
Levin also said Senators did not agree with Army proposals to halt temporarily production at a tank plant at Lima, Ohio. Senators are calling for the assembly line, where the country’s battle tanks are overhauled and modernized, to remain open, instead of mothballing the plant for several years. That plan would have laid-off hundreds of workers and disrupted subcontractors over a wide area. And the Army proposal had stirred up strong political opposition in Washington, from Senator Levin—a key Democrat as well as a top Republican– House Speaker John Boehner, whose district is near the plant.
And Levin said the committee unanimously had endorsed a new way of dealing with cost overruns on the country’s most expensive weapons system– the Joint Strike Fighter, which provides different configurations of the aircraft to the Air Force, Navy and Marines. Under the plan endorsed by the Senate Armed Services Committee, the contractor would have to absorb any cost overruns beyond the initial target cost – a departure from present practices where cost overruns are shared or picked up by the government.
On Pakistan, Levin said in a conference call with journalists that there had been what he called “a lot of discussion about what to do. The U.S. provides billion of dollars of military and other assistance to Pakistan and Levin said there was a lot of feeling not to continue with business as usual between the two countries, but he gave no details.
He said the committee did not directly address whether to close or continue detention of terrorism suspects at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. But he said the committee version of the bill does place new requirements on the Administration before then can release detainees and transfer them to other countries where they might rejoing the terrorism fight against the United States.
And he said the Senate committee, unlike its counterpart on the House side, had no provisions to stop of slow down the planned repeal of the military ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the armed services. “I will strongly oppose the House action,” Levin said.