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Hunter: DoD being overly dramatic about cuts

Feb. 12, 2013 - 02:15PM   |   Last Updated: Feb. 12, 2013 - 02:15PM  |  
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A California Republican accuses the Defense Department "adding drama" to looming budget cuts — like not deploying an aircraft carrier — when less drastic options are available.

Rep. Duncan Hunter, an Iraq and Afghanistan veteran who serves on the House Armed Services Committee, says there are "other programs that are worthy of cost cuts or even elimination" that would have less impact on military readiness.

"Decisions of particular concern include not deploying the USS Harry Truman to the Persian Gulf; not refueling the USS Abraham Lincoln, thus making it unavailable in a crisis; the suspension of mission-critical training and equipment maintenance; and withholding the deployment of Marines to strategic regions in the Pacific," Hunter says in a Feb. 12 letter to Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter.

Hunter warns, in particular, that the Defense Department needs to make force readiness a higher priority than programs and initiatives that are experiencing cost overruns or other inefficiencies.

Carter will testify Wednesday before the House Armed Services Committee. In a Tuesday appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Carter said the Defense Department did not have a lot of flexibility in where to make the looming $46 billion in program cuts that would be ordered March 1 under sequestration. Tying the Pentagon's hands, he said, are restrictions in sequestration law that cut every program by the same percentage and the time remaining before the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30 to make the cuts.

Hunter, though, said he sees better places to cut. "The Department of Defense and the military services are operating multiple programs and undertaking initiatives that are inconsistent with priories or core functions, experiencing cost overruns and performing inefficiently," he said in the letter.

For example, the experimental Navy "Green Fleet" using bio-fuels is far more expensive than sticking with traditional petroleum products, and the Army's Distributed Common Ground System has "severe capability gaps" and has been outperformed by off-the-shelf productions, he wrote.

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