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Failed 2010 deficit-cutting plan gets new look

Nov. 27, 2012 - 10:48AM   |   Last Updated: Nov. 27, 2012 - 10:48AM  |  
Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., a member of a bipartisan group of senators trying to reach a budget agreement to avoid the so-called "fiscal cliff," has suggested using recommendations from the Simpson-Bowles Commission.
Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., a member of a bipartisan group of senators trying to reach a budget agreement to avoid the so-called "fiscal cliff," has suggested using recommendations from the Simpson-Bowles Commission. (Cliff Owen / Associated Press)
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Lawmakers seeking a quick solution to the nation's fiscal crisis are taking another look at a 2010 deficit reduction plan that, among other things, called for a three-year freeze on military pay raises, cuts in military retired pay and health care benefits, and funding reductions for upkeep of installations.

The plan was prepared by the 18-member National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, a presidential panel appointed to make recommendations on tackling the growing national debt.

The commission's proposed final report failed when only 11 of its members voted in favor of it. The commission's charter required a minimum of 14 votes for its recommendations to be formally submitted to Congress and the White House.

With 36 days before automatic budget cuts are set to kick in if there is no deficit reduction agreement, a quick solution would be to grab the fiscal commission's recommendations off the shelf, tweak them and/or use them as a framework for a new proposal, suggests Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., a member of a bipartisan group of senators trying to reach an agreement.

Better known as the Simpson-Bowles Commission, a name derived from its chairmen, the 2013 impacts of the fiscal commission's plan were laid out as options rather than recommendations. But the basic plan called for $80 billion in spending cuts in 2013 and $118 billion in 2014, with half of each figure coming out of the defense budget.

Over the long term, the commission suggested two options: making a 1 percent reduction every year in spending for every federal agency, or capping annual growth at no more than the rate of inflation.

The Simpson-Bowles report's options for savings on defense included a three-year freeze in noncombat pay for service members, a one-third reduction in overseas bases, closing stateside schools for military dependents, and cutting costs for defense health care, including Tricare, and reducing retirement costs.

Options also included a 15 percent cut in weapons procurement, spending less on base support and facilities maintenance, and replacing military personnel in some support jobs with civilians.

The failure of the commission report led to passage of the Budget Control Act of 2011, which required a congressional panel to come up with a deficit reduction plan or face the prospect of $1.2 trillion in across-the-board cuts in federal programs if agreement couldn't be reached.

Those talks also failed, leaving lawmakers and the White House scrambling to reach an agreement by Jan. 2 to avoid the looming cuts that would take $55 billion out of the 2013 defense budget.

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