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Arguments heat up over defense cuts in debt deal

In his first public comments on the debt-ceiling deal that cuts defense spending by as much as $350 billion over 10 years, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said that the military will work on getting its budget in order, but warned that an additional round of cuts threatened in the bill would be "completely unacceptable."

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In his first public comments on the debt-ceiling deal that cuts defense spending by as much as $350 billion over 10 years, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said that the military will work on getting its budget in order, but warned that an additional round of cuts threatened in the bill would be "completely unacceptable."

"I will do everything I can to ensure that further reductions in defense spending are not pursued in a hasty, ill-conceived way that would undermine the military's ability to protect America and its vital interests around the globe," Panetta said in a message to troops and civilian employees, according to the Associated Press.

The AP notes that the $350 billion in cuts were in line with what the department was expecting. (Though The Washington Post reports that there is still some ambiguity about the exact dollar amount.) Defense officials are more worried about the part of the debt deal that says a 12-member House and Senate committee must propose as much as $1.5 trillion in additional overall budget cuts by the end of the year:

If it deadlocks or Congress rejects its recommendations, the Obama administration would impose $1.2 trillion across-the-board spending cuts, with half hitting the Pentagon.

The threat of those cuts was included in the deal by President Barack Obama and Repubicans as a "doomsday incentive" to force Congress to act on more targeted cuts, according to Bloomberg News. But Bloomberg reports that the issue may loom large going in to the 2012 campaign.

Republicans are trying to call Democrats irresponsible for including the measure.

“Can you imagine anything more irresponsible, for the commander in chief of the military to promote -- not just promote but insist -- on the knowing destruction of the U.S. military as a means to threaten Congress?” Senator Jon Kyl said.

Meanwhile, Democrats want to use the issue as a way to get Republicans to accept tax increases.

“In the coming months, our Republican colleagues will be given the following test: Will they choose to protect special- interest tax breaks over investments necessary to keep our nation strong and secure?" Representative Chris Van Hollen said.

Already, Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann have begun hammering Obama about the potential cuts, Bloomberg reports. In a statement, Bachmann said it was difficult for Obama “to understand the importance of national security.”

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/united-states/110804/arguments-heat-over-defense-cuts-debt-deal