Defenders of Pentagon Spending Still Using Troops As Smokescreen to Avoid Cuts

Mitt Romney addressed an American Legion conference today in Indianapolis where he took another opportunity to swipe at President Obama about coming Pentagon budget cuts via sequestration. The cuts would bring Pentagon spending to 2006 levels.

Here's a part of his remarks from the conference: 

We are now just months away from an arbitrary, across-the-board budget reduction that would weaken the military with a trillion dollars in cuts, severely shrink our force structure, and impair our ability to meet and deter threats. President Obama’s own Secretary of Defense has warned that these reductions would be “devastating.” And he is right.  

The devastation will be felt here at home, where up to 1.5 million jobs could be lost.  GDP growth could fall significantly. These cuts will place further stress on an already stretched VA system, and impair our solemn commitment that every veteran receives care second to none. 

 A year ago, President Obama told your national convention that, “We cannot, we must not, we will not, balance the budget on the backs of our veterans.” I thought I finally agreed with him on something – but now, he is on the verge of breaking that promise.

Regardless of how one feels about the cuts or which candidate one prefers, some points needs to be made after statements such as Romney's: Sequestration will not directly impact military personnel or Department of Veterans' Affairs programs. 

Regarding VA programs, the Government Accountability Office analyzed the Budget Control Act of 2011 -- which sequestration stems from.

Senator Patty Murray, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, requested a GAO opinion on the Budget Control Act and the Department of Veterans Affairs’ programs. The Budget Control Act, amending the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985 (BBEDCA), provides for a sequestration of discretionary and direct spending on January 2, 2013. The request arises because of an apparent conflict between two provisions of BBEDCA – section 255(b), exempting all VA programs from sequestration, and section 256(e), limiting reductions to the veterans’ medical care account to two percent.

GAO concluded that all VA programs, including veterans’ medical care, are exempt from sequestration.

As for servicemembers taking a hit from cuts, it won't happen based on moves by the Obama administration: 

President Obama will exempt all military personnel accounts from the $500 billion in defense cuts under sequestration, the Obama administration said in a letter to Capitol Hill on Tuesday.

Acting Office of Management and Budget Director Jeffrey Zients told Congress the president is exercising his authority in the Budget Control Act to exempt military personnel from the 10-year sequestration cuts, according to the letter obtained by The Hill.

The decision to exempt personnel will place further strain on the budget accounts that defense contractors rely on for weapons programs, should the automatic spending cuts occur.

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