Pentagon preps for massive budget cuts

An undated photo of the U.S. Department of An undated photo of the U.S. Department of Defense in Washington, D.C. Photo Credit: Getty Images

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The Defense Department has begun planning for roughly $500 billion in personnel and program cuts over a decade that will be needed if Congress and the White House fail to reach a deal to avoid the "fiscal cliff."

Department spokesman George Little said the cuts would be "devastating to our national defense."

The cuts would also have an effect on Long Island's defense and aerospace industry.

Even though the defense industry in Nassau and Suffolk counties has shrunk in recent decades, there are about 800 aerospace and defense manufacturers here, according to the Long Island Forum for Technology, and they constitute about a quarter of the manufacturing companies on the Island. Earlier this year, some defense and aerospace companies here said they have already seen signs of slowing defense orders.

As the White House and members of Congress continue to wrangle over how best to find as much as $1.2 trillion in savings over the next 10 years to avert the fiscal cliff, Little said the Pentagon started more detailed discussions this week on how to slash 9.4 percent of its budget across the board.

He said cuts that deep could force the department to throw out its new military strategy, and cut weapons and technology programs, and it could hamper the department's ability to provide for its troops and their families.

For months, Pentagon officials have insisted they were not planning for the massive budget cuts that would automatically kick in after the first of the year if the White House and Congress don't strike a deal. But with less than a month to go and no deal in sight, those evaluations have begun in earnest.

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About $55 billion of the $500 billion in cuts would come in the first year.

If Washington lawmakers are able to avoid the fiscal cliff, the military still likely will be looking at as much as an additional $10 billion to $15 billion in cuts in projected military spending each year for the next decade.

With Carrie Mason-Draffen

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