Former Secretary of State backs US military cuts as overseas operations wind down
The US military’s budget should be considered for cuts as current overseas operations wind down, a former Secretary of State under President George W. Bush said Sunday.
“As we draw down from Iraq and as over the next several years as we draw down from Afghanistan, I see no reason why the military shouldn’t be looked at,” Colin Powell told CNN’s Candy Crowley on “State of the Union.”
He continued, “When the Cold War ended 20 years ago, when I was chairman [of the Joint Chiefs of Staff] and Mr. Cheney was secretary of Defense, we cut the defense budget by 25 percent. And we reduced the force by 500,000 active duty soldiers, so it can be done.”
Powell, a retired four-star general in the United States Army, is among a growing number of voices in Washington advocating cuts to the $700 billion annual defense budget.
Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) reiterated on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday that military budget cuts were still on the table.
“No one can defend the expenditure of every dollar and cent at the Pentagon, and we’ve got to be very serious that they’re doing more with less as well,” he said.
But Powell noted that the pace and the exact cuts to the US military have yet to be proposed in the scale by which they occurred after the Cold War ended.
“I don’t think the defense budget can be made, you know, sacrosanct and it can’t be touched,” he added.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates surprised lawmakers earlier this month by announcing that the Pentagon would cut spending by $78 billion over the next five years.
Powell also said that Congress should consider spending cuts to “everything” else in the federal budget. At the same time he blasted a blanket spending freeze to 2008 levels as “inefficient,” he framed cuts to the Social Security and Medicare programs as essential to balancing the budget.
Powell then dismissed the idea of slashing spending on government programs unpopular with conservatives.
“You can’t fix the deficit or the national debt by killing NPR or the national endowment for the humanities or the arts – nice political chatter, but that doesn’t do it,” he said.
Powell stated that he expects President Barack Obama, whom he supported for president in 2008, to talk about job creation in his State of the Union address to Congress on Tuesday. But he added that he is uncommitted to supporting Obama in the 2012 election.
“I am not committed to any candidate until I see all the candidates and finally see who the two candidates are who are going for this position,” he said.
This video is from CNN’s State of the Union, broadcast Jan. 23, 2011, as snipped by Mediaite.
With reporting by David Edwards.