Two out of three national security insiders support deeper Defense cuts

In a new survey of National Journal National Security Insiders, two out of three respondents said they would support deeper spending cuts than those proposed by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, with the most backing cuts in weapons-acquisition programs.

Thirty-three of 51 respondents agreed that the Pentagon's budget should be cut further than the reductions Gates proposed in January, when he announced its biggest cut in the post-9/11 era. Gates proposed cutting $78 billion from Pentagon accounts over the next five years. His proposal, which includes increasing health insurance fees paid by retired veterans and eliminating weapons systems such as the Marine Corps' Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, reflects "in [his] view, the minimum level of defense spending that is necessary." Eighteen of National Journal's Insiders said there should be no further cuts.

Several Insiders said such cuts were necessary -- or simply more permissible -- given the debt and deficit situation, as well as the end of U.S. engagement in Iraq and gradual decline in Afghanistan.

National Security Insiders offered opinions from both extremes: One said the Pentagon budget could "easily" be cut in half and still keep the country secure, and the savings better put toward fighting America's "real threats" that include "crumbling infrastructure" and a "decrepit educational system." Another argued that cutting the budget is "the last thing that should be done, [as] the base budget is too small." Still others were more moderate, agreeing the budget could be trimmed further, though with only "very limited further cuts until Afghanistan winds down."

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