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Udall: National debt threatens national security

12:02 PM, Feb 22, 2012   |    comments
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It will include Admiral James A. "Sandy" Winnefeld Jr., vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; former Iraq and South Korea Ambassador Christopher Hill; Kenneth L. Wainstein, former Homeland Security adviser and Assistant Attorney General for National Security at the Justice Department.

"I think there's probably no limit to what we could do to enhance our security, here at home and around the world," Udall said in an interview. "There is increasingly a limit to dollars, and one of our biggest threats to national security is our national debt."

The Democrat said he supports efforts currently under way to find ways to cut some $500 billion from the military budget over the next 10 years while still dealing with threats such as Iran's nuclear program and political upheaval in Syria. "It's going to be challenging, but I believe we can not only do it, but we have to do it," Udall said of the military budget cuts.

Udall didn't offer specifics on exactly where the cuts would happen but said there's a growing sense on the Senate Armed Services Committee, of which Udall is a member, that every state and every facility would face some type of cut. Savings are expected in cuts to military hardware systems that have cost overruns, as well cuts in personnel from the reduction of ground forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The $614 billion defense budget for 2013 is $32 billion less than this year's budget. The bulk of that savings, $27.5 billion, comes from reduced military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta also unveiled plans to slash the size of the Army and Marine Corps, cut back on shipbuilding and delay the purchase of some fighter jets and weapons systems.

More savings are expected from an audit of how the military's money is spent. "Even finding 2, 3, 4, 5 percent in inefficiencies and waste would begin to add up," Udall said.

Hill, who was the top U.S. negotiator with North Korea during the presidency of George W. Bush, points out that on Iran and its suspected nuclear weapons there are measures such as sanctions available to deal with the threat. His caution focuses on Syria.

"There's no question that (Syrian President) Bashar Assad is a bad actor, but I would not assume that the roster of bad actors in Syria stops with him," said Hill, who is now the dean of the of the University of Denver's Josef Korbel School of International Studies.

"I would like to make sure that people understand that it's not just him versus people who are in favor of democracy. There are signs of al Qaeda being present there. There are signs of the Muslim Brotherhood being present there. I mean, not all the people who oppose him support our interest."

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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