WASHINGTON — A Senate defense committee chairman says Pentagon budget will include large, painful cuts. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin said Tuesday that major program cuts will not be pushed off until the 2011 budget, but will be included when Defense Secretary Robert Gates sends his spending plan to the president later this month.
Levin’s comments confirmed what many contractors and military leaders have expected, but he offered no details on which programs may be axed. He said Pentagon officials have indicated they will not be able to submit the much-anticipated spending plan by April 21, as initially hoped.
The Michigan Democrat also told reporters at a breakfast meeting that he is reserving judgment on whether the multi-billion-dollar contract for replacement of the Air Force’s aging refueling tankers should go to one company or be split between two rival bidders. Other key lawmakers have suggested a split.
The Air Force selected Northrop Grumman/EADS over competitor Boeing Co. for the aerial tanker project last year, but reopened the bidding after the Government Accounting Office found flaws with the decision.
Levin said that if the Pentagon recommends a winner-take-all strategy for the tanker contract, he believes Congress would go along with it if the argument is powerful enough