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Panetta, Lew Pressed by GOP to Release Defense Budget Review

Three top House Republican lawmakers are pressing the Obama administration to disclose interim results of a continuing comprehensive review of military spending.

The review, begun by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, has “preceded any substantial analysis of the future roles, missions and capabilities we want our military to perform,” Representatives Howard “Buck” McKeon of California, C.W. “Bill” Young of Florida and Paul Ryan of Wisconsin wrote.

The lawmakers, chairmen of the House Armed Services, Defense Appropriations and Budget committees, asked White House budget director Jacob Lew and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta for “an update on the status and any preliminary conclusions from the review and the budgetary consequences.”

President Barack Obama in April asked Gates to find $400 billion in national security cuts over 12 years. The scope of the review has since been revised to about $420 billion in “security spending” over 10 years, with $330 billion in Pentagon reductions, as part of the Budget Control Act of 2011 that Obama signed Aug. 2.

$830 Billion Potential Cuts

The bill also raised the $14.3 trillion U.S. debt ceiling until 2013. Another $500 billion in defense spending may be cut over the next decade for a total of $830 billion if a special committee of lawmakers can’t agree by November on $1.2 trillion in deficit savings.

Spokesman Kenneth Baer of the Office of Management and Budget said the agency hadn’t seen the letter. The agency would “welcome the input of members of Congress,” he said. A Pentagon budget spokeswoman, Navy Commander Kathleen Kesler, had no immediate comment.

The Defense Department is facing the largest reduction in spending since the end of the Cold War, when military budgets declined by about 35 percent in constant dollar terms between 1985 and 1998, according to Pentagon data.

Pentagon spokesman Marine Colonel David Lapan told reporters today “the review is ongoing. Secretary Panetta is updated on a regular basis. We have not decided whether there will be anything public about it or not.”

The lawmakers in their letter asked Panetta and Lew to outline “the national security consequences” if the $500 billion in extra cuts is triggered under the new law. Panetta, at a Pentagon news conference last week, called the triggering of those cuts a “doomsday mechanism.”

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