Entries in Budget Cuts (8)


Pentagon Plans Furloughs of Nearly Entire Civilian Workforce

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Deep automatic spending cuts scheduled to take effect on March 1 will greatly affect the Pentagon's civilian workforce, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on Wednesday.

Appearing at a briefing with Pentagon Chief Financial Officer Robert Hale, Panetta said that virtually all of the department's 800,000 civilian employees will be furloughed starting in late April if sequester goes through in just over a week.

Panetta has been leading the charge against the first in the series of spending cuts to pare down the deficit, saying they will drastically undermine the effectiveness of the nation's security.

Hale was quick to add that the civilians would not be laid off, at least not during this fiscal year ending Sept. 30.  However, he could not promise that the layoffs known as reductions in force (RIFs) won't take place after then if the sequester is allowed to continue without congressional action to stop it.

As of now, the plan is to furlough civilian employees at least one day a week beginning in late April -- a reduction in payroll of about $5 billion.  In all, the Pentagon faces $46 billion in spending reductions by Sept. 30.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


NASA Reevaluates Mars Program After Budget Cuts

United Launch Alliance/NASA(WASHINGTON) -- While sci-fi movie junkies are reeling over the recent NASA image in which a structure that resembles the monolith seen in the movie “2001: A Space Odyssey,” protrudes off the surface of Mars, NASA announced Friday its search for alternative, cheaper ways to continue Mars exploration after it was rocked by recent budget cuts.

The agency has created the Mars Program Planning Group (MPPG) to develop and manage future robotic missions, and is encouraging scientists and engineers from around the world to contribute ideas.

The MPPG will be led by veteran aerospace engineer Orlando Figueroa and starting Friday scientists can submit ideas and abstracts online.

This comes on the heels of the announcement that NASA had pulled out of its partnership with European agencies, in which they were planning missions to Mars in 2016 and 2018.

“We are replanning in part because of the budget environment that we’re in,” said John Grunsfeld, an astrophysicist, five-time space shuttle astronaut and associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.

“We’re moving quickly to develop options for future Mars exploration missions and pathways,” Grusnfeld said. ”As part of this process, community involvement, including international, is essential for charting the new agency-wide strategy for our future Mars exploration efforts.”

As for the so-called monolith, experts say it’s likely a rock that fell from the face of a nearby cliff.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Panetta Ready to Announce Pentagon's Future Roles and Missions

TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Facing huge cuts in his operating budget, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta will outline this week how the Pentagon will function in a new age of austerity.

As much as $450 billion will be cut from the Defense Department's budget over the next decade with more than 50 percent of the reductions coming before 2018.

At the still unannounced press conference, Panetta will talk about the roles of the military over the next 10 years, its missions and how it will adapt to global changes.

Among other things, the Pentagon will earmark $500 million for the U.S. Office of Security Cooperation in Iraq and put off construction of the CVN-79 John F. Kennedy aircraft carrier by two years.

With tensions growing in the Pacific Rim due to the rise of China and the uncertainty of North Korea's new regime, the U.S. also plans to bolster its presence in the region -- a plan first mentioned by President Obama during his trip there last November.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Panetta Says Budget Cuts Would Be 'Devastating' for US Military

TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is warning Congress that additional Pentagon budget cuts that would be triggered if the Super Committee fails to reach a deal by next week could lead to significant military cutbacks, including the possible termination of the Joint Strike Fighter program and the end of America’s land-based nuclear missile fleet.

The Pentagon is already working its way through more than $450 billion in cuts over the next 10 years, but Panetta is concerned about a further round of $600 billion in cuts that would be automatically triggered if the Super Committee fails to trim $1.2 trillion from the federal debt.

Panetta argues there would also be significant long-term costs that would leave the United States with the smallest ground force since 1940, a Navy of 230 ships that would be the smallest since 1915 and would leave the Air Force with the smallest number of tactical fighters in its history.

In a letter to Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Panetta for the first time provided specifics about what the cuts might mean for the Pentagon.  The Senators had asked the defense secretary to provide them with specific information beyond his general warnings about the harmful potential impact of the second round of cuts.

“The impacts of these cuts would be devastating for the Department,” Panetta wrote.  

Panetta said a further round of cuts would lead to a combined 23 percent or $100 billion in Defense spending cuts in fiscal year 2013.

“A cut of this magnitude would be devastating in itself, but it gets worse” because by law that cut “would have to be applied equally to each major investment and construction program,” Panetta said.

Such a cut would “render most of our ship and construction projects unexecutable -- you cannot buy three quarters of a ship or a building and seriously damage other modernization efforts,” he said.  The DOD civilian workforce would also be affected, as they might have to face month-long furloughs to save on personnel costs.

Included in Panetta’s response was a document entitled “Effects of Sequestration on the Department of Defense” that includes a list of big ticket weapons programs and systems that might be directly affected by another round of Defense spending cuts.

This includes not only a dramatic cut in the size of the standing military and a slashing of the Navy, but also the possible termination of the Joint Strike Fighter program, where the Pentagon plans to purchase 2,443 of the aircraft as the next-generation fighters for the Air Force, Navy and Marines. The program has already suffered from rising costs and production delays.

Another cut is simply listed as “eliminate ICBM leg of Triad” that would have a significant impact on America’s long held nuclear strategy of a “nuclear triad” or a nuclear arsenal of strategic bombers, Inter Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM) and submarine launched ICBMs.

Eliminating the land-based ICBMs would still likely leave enough air-launched and sub-launched nuclear weapons to serve as a nuclear deterrent.  However, eliminating the ICBM fleet would represent a cut that Panetta has opposed in the past.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Cities Cut Streetlights, Playgrounds, Police in Tough Times

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Topeka, Kan., became the latest city to take drastic measures to deal with budget shortfalls when it repealed its domestic violence law Tuesday. The city disputed with the county and a district attorney who should pay for prosecuting domestic violence criminals. Topeka District Attorney Chad Taylor released a statement Wednesday afternoon saying that despite budget cuts to his department, his office would make do with less in order to continue prosecuting incidents of domestic violence.

Cities around the country have been forced to cut basic services such as laws and streetlights because of budget woes in recent years:

-- Say Goodbye to Streetlights: The embattled city of Detroit lost 1,400 streetlights in one of its most impoverished neighborhoods, Highland Park, when it couldn’t afford to pay its electrical bill, according to Michigan Live. The neighborhood owed $4 million in unpaid bills when the utility came to collect the poles. Dark streets and sidewalks in the city lead some critics to predict crime will rise.

-- Say Hello to Potholes with KFC Logos: A suburban town with a serious budget problem, Naperville, Ill., once considered a deal in which Kentucky Fried Chicken would pay for pothole repairs in exchange for stamping the new potholes with the chicken chain’s logo, according to the Chicago Tribune.

-- Hello, Officer?: The city of Alto, Texas, population 1,200, decided to cut its entire police force for six months, laying off five officers and increasing emergency response time from three minutes to 15 minutes, according to the Wall Street Journal. Citizens will rely on sheriff’s officers in the meantime, though the county force is already stretched thin after nearby Wells laid off its sole police officer earlier in the year.

-- No More Playtime for You!: Kids in Clearwater, Fla., lost nine playgrounds -- with six more scheduled to go -- because of budget cuts, according to the St. Petersburg Times. Replacing the aging playgrounds had become too expensive for the struggling city, so the playgrounds were demolished, instead.

-- One Square Per Person:
Parks Department employees in Coney Island, N.Y., doled out squares of toilet paper to bathroom patrons near the Coney Island boardwalk last summer, leaving the toilet paper canisters in stalls empty. The rationing was said to be prompted by budget constraints on the department, according to the New York Post, though a city spokeswoman denied the claim.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Leon Panetta: ‘We Must Avoid at All Costs a Hollow Military’

TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Tuesday that navigating the Defense Department through $450 billion of cuts is the “defining challenge” he faces.

“The changing international security landscape and the new fiscal constraints, are framing my defining challenge as Secretary of Defense,” Panetta said at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.  “How do we build the military of the 21st century, the military that we need, in order to confront a wide range of threats, and at the same time, how do we responsibly reduce deficits in order to protect our economy?”

He called on Congress to work together to agree on budget cuts and avoid “sequestration” -- where if Congress does not agree on what cuts should be made, the Department of Defense would have to make double the $450 billion in cuts it has already been asked to make.

“This must be a partnership, Republican and Democrat alike,” Panetta said . “They must be a responsible partner in supporting a strong defense strategy, that may not always include their favorite base or their favorite weapon system.  Congress in particular must prevent disastrous cuts from taking effect, particularly with the mechanism that was built into the Budget Control Act known as sequester.”

Panetta echoed Army leaders’ comments during the ongoing Association of the United States Army convention in Washington, D.C., saying sequestration would be “catastrophic” and “wrong.”

“This mechanism would force defense cuts that would do catastrophic damage to our military and its ability to protect the country.  It would double the number of cuts that we confront and it would damage our interests not only here, but around the world,” he said.

Panetta said he was working closely with the chiefs of the services and the president to achieve a “roadmap for the military we need for the future as the wars begin to wind down.”

“There are, without question, things that we know we are going to have to see as we go through this process.  We know that the military of the 21st century will be smaller.  But even if smaller, it must be supremely capable and effective as a force to deal with a range of security challenges, a military that, as President Obama has said, and I quote, ‘will remain the greatest force for freedom and security that the world has ever known,’ unquote,” Panetta said.

Panetta said the department was looking at four different areas to save money: eliminating overhead infrastructure, waste and duplication; force structure and the size of the ground forces after Iraq and Afghanistan; modernization and procurement reforms; and personnel costs.

The secretary of defense repeatedly warned against significant force reductions.

“Given the nature of today’s security landscape, we cannot afford to repeat the mistakes of past reductions in force that followed World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the fall of the Iron Curtain, which to varying degrees, as a result of across-the-board cuts, weakened our military,” he said.

“We must avoid at all costs a hollow military, one that lacks sufficient training and equipment to adapt to surprises and uncertainty, a defining feature of the security environment we confront,” Panetta continued.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Defense Secretary Panetta Warns Against Deeper Pentagon Cuts

DoD photo by Tech. Sgt. Jacob N. Bailey, U.S. Air Force(WASHINGTON) -- Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned again Tuesday that deeper cuts in the defense budget could affect national security and prove devastating to the military, leaving a hollow force unprepared to deal with global threats.  
Speaking at the National Defense University alongside Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a discussion on the recent debt ceiling agreement prompted Panetta to reiterate that a choice does not have to be made between national security and fiscal responsibility.  “I want the country to know that we can get this done, but we have to do it in a way that protects our national defense and protects our national security," said Panetta.
Panetta said both he and Clinton recognize how important it is that  “as we go through these budget tests that we're going to go through, that the country recognize how important it is that we maintain our national security and that we be strong."
The debt ceiling agreement reached earlier this month calls for the Defense Department to make $350 billion in spending cuts over the next decade, which is in the ballpark for spending cuts the Pentagon had anticipated earlier this year.  What concerns Panetta the most is the potential of an automatic $500 billion cut specifically targeting Pentagon spending that would go into place if Congress cannot agree on further mandated reductions.  
“This kind of massive cut across the board which would literally double the number of cuts that we're confronting," he said. "That would have devastating effects on our national defense. It would have devastating effects on, certainly, the State Department."
A one-time director of the Office of Management and Budget, Panetta said he spoke from experience when he said that a serious review of the nation’s budget spending must include a look at mandatory entitlement spending and taxes.  “If you're serious about dealing with budget deficits, you can't just keep going back to the discretionary part of the budget," he said.    
He warned that an across-the-board cut would break faith with troops and their families and “literally undercut our ability to put together the kind of strong national defense we have today."
Panetta was asked about news reports that the Pentagon is considering a change in the military’s current retirement package, in which service members who have served 20 years in uniform receive an annual pension worth half their pay.
The  Defense Business Board, a DOD advisory panel, has recommended doing away with the current system in favor of a 401k retirement plan that would be collected at the typical retirement age.
Panetta stressed that no decisions had been made with regard to retirement payouts, but said, “it's the kind of thing you have to consider, in terms of retirement reforms in the broad form."
He said such reforms had to be done “in a way that doesn't break faith...with our troops and with their families” that would include grandfathering the benefits of those already serving in uniform.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Marines to Enlist Fewer Recruits, Limit Number of Reenlistments

Creatas/Thinkstock(HAVELOCK, N.C.) -- With economic hard times meaning big Pentagon budget cuts, the Marines are planning a gradual reduction of some troops from the current 202,000 to approximately 186, 000, after the planned withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Gen. James Amos, the commandant of the Marine Corps, outlined some of what the plan will entail Wednesday to soldiers at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in North Carolina.

As force levels are pared down overseas, Amos said that the Marines will enlist fewer recruits.

In an announcement that undoubtedly upset current Marines, Amos also acknowledged that not everyone who wants to reenlist will be accepted.

Because of this policy change, the Marine commandant said that the service can only bring back the very best of current Marines.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio