Panetta and Dempsey were pressed on the issue during their second day of congressional testimony on Obama's defense budget for 2013. Democrats and Republicans are resisting proposed cuts in the size of the Army and Marine Corps, cutbacks on shipbuilding, delays in the purchase of some fighter jets and weapons systems and another round of domestic base closings.
Overall, the budget for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 would provide $525.4 billion in base spending and another $88.5 billion for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The total is nearly $32 billion less than this year's budget.
Panetta repeatedly reminded lawmakers that the cuts were dictated by the budget agreement reached by Obama and Congress last summer, a pact supported by the panel's chairman, Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon, R-Calif., and many other members of the committee.
"The bottom line here is we were handed a number for defense reductions. We stepped up to the plate, we met our obligations to try to do this in a way that would still preserve for us an effective force to deal with the threats," Panetta said.
Committee Republicans argued that Obama had called for $400 billion in reductions over 10 years last April, months before the deficit-cutting plan.
Looking at future budgets, Rep. Adam Smith of Washington state, the panel's top Democrat, said that in reality the cuts are a reduction in projected spending.
"It's a decrease in the increase," Smith said.
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