The Cable

Levin: Defense cuts must be on the table

The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee said on Tuesday that he agreed with the White House that cuts to the defense budget must be part of upcoming budget negotiations.

"Defense has to be on the table," Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) said in a Tuesday interview. "It means there should be some reductions in some parts of the defense budget. We haven't decided what those are yet, because it depends on a lot of things and it doesn't say how much those cuts should be, because that shouldn't be decided in the abstract."

Levin's comments track with those of Senior White House Advisor David Plouffe, who said on Sunday on ABC's "This Week" that, "We're going to have to look at defense spending."

Levin's Republican counterpart John McCain (R-AZ), said in a Tuesday interview that he strongly disagreed with Levin and that the efficiencies and savings put forth by Defense Secretary Robert Gates earlier this year were sufficient.

"We are in two wars, we are in a crisis in Libya, and before I could say I was for cutting defense, I'd have to be shown a need for them, not just a blanket statement that we should cut defense," said McCain. "That's just crazy and stupid."

The Paul Ryan (R-WI) budget actually calls for steady increases in defense spending: It proposes a $583 billion base defense budget in fiscal 2012, growing to $642 billion in 2016. Meanwhile the Ryan budget would slash State Department and Foreign Ops funding, which was cut by $8 billion in the budget deal struck last week to avoid a government shutdown.

The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Ops Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said in a Tuesday interview that those cuts were ill advised.

"Most people think that about 20 to 40 percent of the national budget is in foreign aid, it's less than 1 percent," he said. "And A lot of time, what we do there if we do it wise keeps us out of wars."

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