Cuts to the defense budget in excess of what are already planned would be “irresponsible” warned the House Armed Services Committee (HASC).  In a summary of a recently-released HASC assessment of the effects of potential large defense budget cuts, the committee argued that the $465 billion reductions already being considered by the Department of Defense (DoD) will produce military forced levels “not seen in over a decade.”  Even deeper cuts would result in a military that “Americans will find unacceptable,” the HASC assessment warns.  

The committee analyzed the potential effect on military forces if DoD were forced to implement about $500 billion in automatic cuts (sequestration) resulting from the Deficit Reduction Committee’s inability to reach an agreement on a package of spending cuts and revenue increases.  According to the HASC assessment, new weapons systems development would be stopped or seriously curtailed.  The Navy might be forced to mothball up to 60 ships, the report stated, and a third of the Army Maneuver Battalions and Air Force fighters could be at risk.  The committee further warned that these excessive cuts could break the Marine Corps.

HASC chairman Rep. “Buck” McKeon (R-CA), underscored these points in an op-ed piece published in the Wall Street Journal.  In a summary of the piece released by the committee, McKeon said that the potential inability of the Deficit Reduction Committee to reach agreement “holds our military hostage” to another $500 billion in cuts.  He also argued that these defense cuts could have drastic economic effects resulting from the loss of 800,000 military, civilian, and contractor jobs.

McKeon pointed out the warning Secretary Panetta made during a recent congressional hearing.  He said that Panetta responded to a question as to whether large automatic cuts would amount to the U.S. shooting itself in the foot by saying, “We’d be shooting ourselves in the head.”