‘Potentially Devastating’: Pentagon Responds To Proposed GOP Defense Budget Cuts

Screenshot / Pentagon Fiscal Year 2024 Budget Request Briefing / C-Span

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Micaela Burrow Investigative Reporter, Defense
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The Pentagon said a proposed GOP defense budget cut back to fiscal year 2022 levels would be “potentially devastating,” according to a letter sent to Congress on March 17, released Monday.

The defense budget could receive a cut of $73.7 billion from its current budget, and even more compared to the Biden administration’s request for fiscal year 2024 under House Majority Leader California Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s still unclear spending proposal, Department of Defense (DOD) comptroller Michael McCord wrote in the letter addressed to House Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut. Such a deficit would cut a deep gash into the administration’s strategy to reinforce Pacific defense networks and improve military readiness, McCord argued.

“Those who would propose deep cuts to our budget have a responsibility to describe those goals in our strategy they wish to abandon or scale back in the Indo-Pacific, Europe, in the homeland or elsewhere,” McCord wrote.

Such reductions would “have harmful and potentially devastating effects on our people, our mission and our national interests,” he continued. (RELATED: Here’s How House Republicans Could Actually Cut The Defense Budget)

The Pentagon requested $842 billion for next year’s defense budget, including more than $9 billion for a set-aside Pacific deterrence fund — 40% more than Congress finally authorized for 2022, McCord said. McCarthy’s proposal would warrant crippling the Pacific Deterrence Initiative, damaging not only the U.S.’ ability to deter China but also allies’ trust.

It would also strip away $10 billion for at least two major ships, force the Pentagon to suspend its nuclear modernization programs and slice funding for missile warning and defense systems in half, McCord said. A campaign to restore American munitions stocks through the use of multi-year contracting facilities might be stopped out of the gate.

The president’s budget “does not propose steep reductions uninformed by strategy,” he said, referencing McCarthy’s spending freeze at seemingly arbitrary levels. Congress would face a difficult chore in determining the exact programs and funding levels that would be cut or reduced.

While the Pentagon would prioritize troop pay raises, reduction would cause “severe disruption” to defense personnel and force even deeper cuts to training, readiness and recruiting programs, McCord said.

Biden’s budget put forth a 5.2% pay raise for DOD military and civilian employees, larger in percentage terms than the pay raise authorized in the budget for 2023, but well below average inflation rates.

Cutting necessary spending by 22% “would cause irreparable damage to our communities by gutting the programs every single American relies on,” DeLauro, who wrote to multiple federal agencies regarding the impact of potential budget cap, said in a statement. “Those proposals are unrealistic, unsustainable, and unconscionable.”

McCarthy pledged to a group of Republican holdouts he would cut discretionary spending if they supported his bid for House leadership, drawing concern among Democrats and hawkish Republicans of potentially dangerous reductions to the defense budget.

However, some GOP leaders say DOD should focus on eliminating wasteful programs while preserving those they say actually contribute to American defense. GOP representatives previously told the Daily Caller News Foundation that “woke” provisions in the defense budget could be eliminated while preserving needed defense spending.

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