Panetta Warns Against Repealing Trigger’s Military Spending Cuts, Previously Said They’d Be ‘Devastating’

Republicans in Congress are trying to walk back the nearly $600 billion in military and security spending cuts that are mandated to take effect now that the super committee has failed to reach an agreement on how to cut $1.2 trillion in federal spending. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-CA) are leading the charge, despite the fact that both voted for the debt ceiling agreement back in August that created the super committee and mandated the trigger cuts should it fail.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has been speaking out forcefully against the trigger’s $600 billion in military spending cuts, saying they would be “devastating” and “hollow out” the military. He even said last week that spending reductions of this magnitude would invite an attack on the United States.

President Obama said yesterday that he would veto any bill that would void the $600 billion in security spending cuts. So, obviously, Panetta bucked his boss and got on board with what McCain and McKeon want to do right? Wrong. The AP reports Panetta’s reaction to the super committee failure:

“Despite the danger posed by sequestration, I join the president in his call for Congress to avoid an easy way out of this crisis. Congress cannot simply turn off the sequester mechanism, but instead must pass deficit reduction at least equal to the $1.2 trillion it was charged to pass under the Budget Control Act.”

But if the sequester mechanism’s $600 billion in cuts to security spending would basically, as Panetta has been saying for the last few months, reduce the United States military to a functionless institution incapable of protecting a small island, why isn’t the defense secretary doing everything he can to stop them?

The answer is because it’s not true, as CAP’s Larry Korb recently noted in the New York Times:

Adding $500 billion to the $450 billion already being cut would mean total reductions of $950 billion over the next decade, or about 15 percent.

Since the defense budget has grown by more than 50 percent over the past 10 years, it can easily absorb a 15 percent reduction — which would be about half the defense cuts of Presidents Eisenhower and Nixon and less than that of George H. W. Bush.

Cutting the military budget by that much would, as Korb also notes, “in real terms, allow the Pentagon to spend at its 2007 level for the next decade.”