The growing consensus on how the 12-member panel plans to cut $1.2 trillion from the federal deficit is starting to look like a big win for the Defense Department, which could see its budget slashed by hundreds of billions of dollars if there is no deal. In an email obtained by Politico's Mike Allen, Chris Krueger of the investment-research firm Washington Research Group tells clients the deal would likely see $100 billion in defense cuts. That figure squares with a National Security Insiders Poll conducted by National Journal last month in which a majority of experts with "budget-cutting or policy experience" said defense cuts wouldn't exceed $100 billion.
That would be a huge relief to Pentagon officials who last week went on a media blitz warning that if the Super Committee doesn't reach a deal by Nov. 23, a trigger would automatically slash $600 billion from the defense budget, a move that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said would cause "catastrophic damage" to the military. “It would double the number of cuts we confront, and it would damage our interests not only here, but around the world.” That warning has been echoed by John McHugh, the Army secretary, and Gen. Ray Odierno, the new chief of staff who warned of a dramatic downsizing of force levels last week and former Air Force Maj. Gen. Bentley Rayburn who penned a foreboding column in National Review last Monday.
So if it's looking like the military will be spared, what is the Super Committee planning to cut instead? Krueger lays out some cuts with some awfully wide margins that add up to $1.2 trillion:
$300B revenue raisers (the likely framework would be a 3-1 spending to revenue ratio) … $216B interest savings … $134B-$300B in Medicare/Medicaid … $60-255B Chained CPI for inflation-adjusted programs … $200B relatively non-controversial spending cuts … $100B defense
Of course, for those who think the Pentagon could use a major haircut, a gridlocked Super Committee could be a welcome development. What are the chances the 12-member committee won't strike a deal? It will likely depend on Republicans agreeing to government revenue increases and Democrats agreeing to significant cuts to entitlements. Trouble is, the committee has been extremely secretive about whether they can forge a deal. For what it's worth, the Washington Research Group sees a 25 percent chance of a grand deal being enacted. Meanwhile, Mike Allen pegs the chances at 40 percent.