The idea is out there -- Republicans on Capitol Hill considering a ceiling for defense cuts mandated by the deficit-reduction super committee. If it becomes a reality, however, it would not exceed $150 billion over 10 years.
The $150 billion figure is most often cited in private talks among staffers, The Washington Times reports congressional sources as saying. But that does not mean it is written in stone.
Rather, several Republicans say they oppose further Pentagon budget reductions. Especially after last month's Budget Control Act pared $340 billion of defense spending from 2013 to 2021.
However, if that happened, the Times said, it would mean nearly $500 billion in military spending reductions for that period.
The $500 billion is the secret number, said a defense industry executive who spoke with congressional staffers this week. That's about as far as Republicans will go before they walk. Find $150 billion in fat and waste.
The 12-member super committtee is tasked with the responsibility of finding where to place $1.5 trillion tax increases, or, finding a place to make spending cuts over the next 10 years. But if the bipartisan group cannot agree to a plan this year, cuts to defense and domestic programs will automatically take place.
GOP Strategy: Oppose Committee's Cuts OVer $150 Billion
The strategy for Republicans is this, according to the defense industry source: Reject the committee's plan if it goes over $150 billion and then wait and see if the budget act's automatic cuts take effect.
That's the number floating around, but I'm not sure how certain that dollar amount actually is, a congressional staffer told the Times.
The automatic cuts would shrink defense spending by an additional $454 billion, according to a Sept. 12 Congressional Budget Office report, bringing the total to about $800 billion. Total cuts to security, including the U.S. State Department and Homeland Security, would likely reach $1 trillion.
The six-Republican, six-Democrat super committee includes Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, one of the GOP's most pro-defense legislators. Mr. Kyl last week said he would quit the panel if it starts negotiating arms spending reductions.
Rep. Duncan Hunter of California, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, is one of several Republicans who say the super committee should immunize the Pentagon against more cuts.
The defense budget has already taken a major hit, said Hunter spokesman Joe Kasper. It can't take much more. We are on the verge of making a bad situation even worse, and lawmakers need to think long and hard before they put their name behind any additional cuts in defense.
Currently, the Pentagon is in the middle of a budget drill,coming up with initial cuts in the 2013 budget submitted to Congress in February. Not counting the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Pentagon spends nearly $530 billion annually.
The point is, it's a terrible idea to cut spending when we don't know if we are making the necessary investment in defense to begin with, Kasper said.
Defense Analysis: This might actually be a good idea. Entitlement reform and long-term spending reductions will never happen if the Democrats believe that a GOP sacred cow (defense) is protected. And let's be honest, defense is, as a colleague likes to say, a government program marbled with fat like a ribeye.