KNAU and Arizona News
12:13 pm
Mon December 19, 2011

Scheduled Pentagon Cuts Could Hurt Arizona Economy

Since Congress has been struggling to come up with next year's budget, the spotlight has moved away from the work of another congressional budget committee.

A twelve-member super committee was given the task of finding more than one trillion dollars in budget cuts by last Thanksgiving.

That committee missed its deadline.

So, automatic cuts are slated to take effect.

That means deep spending reductions could hit the Pentagon.

 And that doesn't bode well for Arizona’s Defense industry.

More than half a trillion dollars is now slated to get chopped from the Pentagon’s budget.

That’s on top of a previous agreement to trim its budget by four hundred and fifty billion dollars.

These impending cuts have Pentagon officials and Defense contractors jittery.

Congressman Trent Franks, R-Ariz., says the cuts, "would be devastating."

Even those Republicans lawmakers who campaigned on trimming the federal debt don’t want to see cutting half a trillion dollars from the Pentagon’s budget.

Many in the GOP, such as Franks, opposed the compromise measure that set up the super committee.

He says automatic cuts to the Pentagon’s budget should never have been a part of the mix. 

Franks said, "The reason that I didn’t’ support the structure of the super committee is because I thought it had built in incentives for Democrats to jam the thing up.”

Budget experts say the cuts are likely to fall on defense contractors who contribute a lot to the state’s economy.

Last year Arizona received more than ten billion dollars in Defense contracts mostly for work in aviation and aerospace.

Arizona’s Republican Senators are now leading an effort to protect the Pentagon’s budget while cutting in other places.

Senator Jon Kyl was on the failed super committee.

When Congress gets back from its holiday he plans to introduce legislation to redirect the Pentagon cuts, though he hasn’t listed details yet.

Kyl said,  "we will identify savings, we will present that in the best legislative vehicle we can and thereby offset the saving that would be required through the sequester.”

The cuts wouldn’t kick in until January of two thousand and thirteen.

But Kyl says those who oversee weapons programs need to know the money will be there.  

“We have to begin now," he said. "We can’t wait until 2013, because the time it takes for the Defense Department to plan cuts of this draconian nature requires that the planning actually commence about a year ahead of time.”

Critics say the GOP is being hypocritical for working to protect home state jobs in the name of national security.

But Senator John McCain, R-Ariz, says he wants to reform the Pentagon budget, not lop its head off.

“It’s not as if we are for leaving Defense sacrosanct," said McCain.  "I will take a back seat to no one in my efforts to try to reform the corruption in the Pentagon which characterizes our weapons acquisition process.”

Congressman Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., warns that the GOP is playing with fire by attempting to walk back from the previous, bipartisan spending agreement. “A deal was a deal," he said. "I think once they open that Pandora’s box and say Defense needs to be exempted, I think it gives the rest of us an absolute right to say ‘you broke the deal – everything’s off the table,’ and I think that’s the danger they run.”

The president has threatened to veto any attempt to blunt the coming budget cuts.

Flagstaff Republican Congressman Paul Gosar agrees, even though he knows the cuts will be painful for Arizona.

“You know we didn’t go into this lightly and we shouldn’t unwind it lightly.”