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Fri Dec 21, 2012, 09:02 AM

Military funds to spare?


Military funds to spare?
By Walter Pincus, Published: December 19

Congress and Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta showed this week that there are hundreds of millions, if not billions, of loose dollars in the Pentagon’s budget that can be shifted around without apparent harm to national security.

In a speech Wednesday at the National Press Club, Panetta voiced his frustration at changes the House and Senate armed services committees had made in the fiscal 2013 defense authorization bill. At one point he said that the committees “had diverted about $74 billion of what we asked for in savings in our proposed budget to the Congress, and they diverted them to other areas that, frankly, we don’t need.”

He spoke about “pressure on the department to retain excess force structure and infrastructure instead of investing in the training and equipment that makes our force agile and flexible and ready.” Without specifying programs, Panetta mentioned having to keep “aircraft, ships, tanks, bases, even those that have outlived their usefulness, (but) have a natural political constituency.”

As if on cue, just two hours after Panetta’s speech, the chairmen of the Senate and House armed services committees — Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (R-Calif.) — released summaries of the House-Senate conference report on the fiscal 2013 defense bill that contained funding changes illustrating some of what Panetta had been complaining about.

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