April 12, 2013 10:33:02 AM
WASHINGTON -- Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel rejected the suggestion that President Barack Obama tapped him to "cut the heart out of the Pentagon," pointedly reminding lawmakers Thursday that Congress approved the smaller, deficit-driven military budgets long before he took the job.
Faced with a $487 billion budget cut over a decade, Hagel and Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the Pentagon had no choice in drawing up the politically unpopular reductions in the president's proposed $526.6 billion budget for next year.
The blueprint calls for another round of domestic base closures, higher health care fees for retirees and their dependents, and a smaller pay raise for personnel. Dempsey cast the choice as between a well-compensated force and the readiness of the nation's war fighters.