The leaders of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee have asked Defense Secretary Leon Panetta not to implement any reductions to the military until the congressional defense committees have the opportunity to respond to the Pentagon’s 2013 budget request.
“We request that you not take actions to implement decisions that would be difficult or impossible to reverse by anticipating congressional approval of what may turn out to be very contentious proposals before the committees have had an opportunity to propose bills reflecting their responses to the fiscal 2013 budget request,” a March 19 letter to Panetta signed by Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said.
Levin serves as the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, while McCain is the ranking member.
The senators say that in their preliminary review of the Pentagon’s budget request for 2013, it has become clear that some of the decisions proposed could be implemented beginning in fiscal 2012.
The Pentagon is allowed to make force size changes as long as it stays within the bounds of the congressionally approved end strengths.
The senators say they are worried the Pentagon will take action before any of the congressional defense committees have an opportunity to act on the 2013 budget request.
“While we understand that doing so may help the Department achieve more ‘savings’ than might be otherwise realized, the Department should avoid taking actions that would restrict Congress’ ability to consider and act on the fiscal 2013 budget request,” Levin and McCain write.
If the Pentagon follows the senators’ advice, it could be waiting awhile.
While the fiscal year begins on Oct. 1, authorization and appropriations bills lately are getting passed later and later in the year.
Only after a bitter fight over the handling of suspected terrorists did Congress pass a defense authorization bill last December for year 2012.