By Nina Mandell
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Powell, a retired four-star general who served in the Bush administration, made the comment on CNN's "State of the Union" show on Sunday.
"When the Cold War ended 20 years ago, when I was chairman and [Dick] Cheney was Secretary of Defense, we cut the defense budget by 25 percent. And we reduced the force by 500,000 active duty soldiers, so it can be done. Now, how fast you can do it and what you have to cut out remains to be seen, but I don't think the defense budget can be made sacrosanct and it can't be touched," he said. [Read more about national security, terrorism, and the military.]
In their Pledge to America during the midterm elections, Republicans pledged to cut $100 billion from the budget in an effort to control spending, but most top leaders want to leave Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid and military and veteran spending untouched.
While Tea Party members have said nothing is off limits to cut -- including defense, many top Republicans have suggested yanking money from a variety of domestic programs, including NPR, the National Endowment for the Arts and Amtrak, as possible answers to the country's financial woes.
"Nice political chatter, but that doesn't do it," Powell said.
He also slammed Republican leaders for playing politics with the budget, without offering what he said were real solutions.
"Don't tell me you're going to freeze to a level," he said. "That usually is a very inefficient way of doing it. Tell me what you're going to cut, and nobody up there yet is being very, very candid about what they are going to cut to fix this problem." [Read more about the deficit and national debt.]
Powell's comments came shortly after Tea Party leaders reiterated their willingness to cut the defense budget. Republican leader Eric Cantor also has recently expressed that he would be willing to support defense cuts.
Powell, who famously crossed the line to endorse Obama in 2008, said he isn't yet prepared to back any candidate in the 2012 presidential election, despite his views on the budget seeming to line up with Democrats' arguments.
"I'm not committed to Barack Obama. I'm not committed to a Republican candidate," the moderate Republican said. "I am not committed to any candidate until I see all the candidates and finally see who the two candidates are who are going for this position.
"Right now I do not see on the Republican side any one individual who I think is going to emerge at the top of the pile."