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2012: Year in review

DOD budget will be cut; how much is still unclear

Defense Department officials began 2012 by unveiling plans to slash military spending by a half-billion dollars. Next year might start with that cut being doubled.

Servicemembers and defense contractors spent most of this year worried about just how much of a cut the military may face in 2013. Pentagon leaders and lawmakers spent even more time promising a clearer answer, but never managed to find one.

In February, the White House unveiled its long-term budget plan for the military, which included $487 billion in reduced spending over the next decade. It will include cutting the end strength of the Army and Marine Corps, slowing down equipment purchases and repositioning some overseas forces back in the United States.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has repeatedly defended those cuts, saying the military must make sacrifices to help the country improve its overall fiscal standing. Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney railed against them, but President Barack Obama’s victory in November makes those plans nearly certain in the years to come.

Still up in the air is the threat of sequestration — an additional $500 billion in automatic defense cuts over the next 10 years, mandated when Congress failed to reach a debt-reduction plan in late 2011.

Panetta, the president and lawmakers from both parties spent most of the year decrying the clumsy mandated cuts, and promising to find solutions before they went into effect.

The sequestration cuts are scheduled to kick in Jan. 2. While military pay and benefits won’t be affected and veteran-specific programs are exempt, other support services will be hit hard. Family programs, commissary hours, base maintenance accounts and supply plans all will see cuts up to 10 percent under sequestration.

Lawmakers have promised to work to find an alternative debt-reduction plan — and pass legislation avoiding sequestration — right up until that Jan. 2 deadline.

shanel@stripes.osd.mil

Twitter: @LeoShane

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