The soldier in Mike Pompeo tells him that it's wrong for the nation's defense to take a $350 billion hit if a dozen lawmakers can't reach a bipartisan agreement on trimming the federal debt.
But if that does happen, the Republican congressman from Wichita said Wednesday, "It's not a doomsday for me."
During an wide-ranging interview with The Wichita Eagle's editorial board, Pompeo said, "If you're going to shrink the federal government, you're going to have to pretty much shrink it everywhere."
The 12-member "super committee" — six Democrats, six Republicans — will try to get along well enough to forge a consensus on $1.5 trillion in deficit reductions by Thanksgiving. Congress would then have until Christmas to vote on it — right before the calendar flips to the 2012 presidential and congressional election year.
If the committee can't reach a conclusion — and there is serious doubt among lawmakers, including Pompeo, that it can — that would trigger automatic spending cuts as outlined by the recently passed Budget Control Act of 2011.
About $350 billion would come from projected military spending over the next decade. The rest would come from cuts to a variety of domestic programs, such as education, housing and transportation.
Pompeo, a West Point graduate, looks at those possible defense cuts and grimaces. National security is the single mission of the federal government as provided by the U.S. Constitution, he said.
In the waning hours of the debt-ceiling compromise that included the formation of the super committee, Pompeo said, he strongly argued that very point. But defense spending remained on the table.
"I was not thrilled with it," he said.
But Pompeo said he also knew House leadership was trying to reach an agreement and decided the plan was the best attainable outcome for now.
Cuts in national security spending would go beyond the military to such areas as homeland and border security.
"Our national security apparatus is going to have to operate effectively in a constrained fiscal environment as well," Pompeo said, adding that"... we'll find a way to do our national security mission at those levels."
He said there are fellow House Republicans who "disagree with me tremendously."
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