* Respondents back defense budget of about $435 billion
* House panel passes authorization for $554 billion
By David Alexander
WASHINGTON, May 10 Lawmakers arguing over a
proposed $5 billion cut in the U.S. defense budget might want to
take a look at how much the American public would trim if given
a chance - an average of $127 billion, according to a survey
released on Thursday.
The survey, which explained the issues and let respondents
decide budget levels, found that Americans would slash spending
on nuclear weapons by an average of 27 percent, cancel the F-35
Joint Strike Fighter, the Pentagon's biggest weapons program,
and scrap plans for a new aircraft carrier and long-range
Overall, respondents on average thought $435 billion was an
appropriate level for the 2013 defense budget - about $127
billion less than 2012 levels - according to the survey, which
was conducted by the Program for Public Consultation, a project
involving the University of Maryland.
The survey was released hours after the House of
Representatives Armed Services Committee passed a defense policy
bill that would authorize spending of $554 billion for national
defense in the 2013 fiscal year and $88.5 billion for the U.S.
The measure, which sets defense policy but does not actually
appropriate funds, would add nearly $4 billion to the Pentagon's
own spending request for 2013.
That would eliminate most of the $5 billion that Defense
Secretary Leon Panetta has proposed to cut as part of efforts to
curb the trillion-dollar U.S. budget deficit.
"The Armed Services and budget committees are doing
everything that they can to spare defense from further cuts,"
said Matthew Leatherman, a defense budget analyst at the
nonpartisan Stimson Center, which sponsored the survey along
with the Center for Public Integrity.
"Most Americans disagree pretty markedly if you are going to
use this survey as an indicator," he said. "They are ready to
cut a good bit further. And they're doing that from a
Survey participants were selected at random and asked to
take part online at their own pace. They were presented defense
budget issues and arguments for and against. Then they were
asked to set spending levels for programs that make up most of
the defense budget.
Very little survived untouched.
Ground forces in the Army and Marines would take the biggest
hit, slashed by an average of 23 percent, the survey found.
Spending on naval power was clipped by an average of 13 percent
and on air power by an average of 17 percent.
While nearly 80 percent of those questioned said they were
convinced by arguments on the need for Special Operations
Forces, they still supported an average of 10 percent cut in
Special Ops spending, the survey said.
Not everything was cut. While slicing the existing
capabilities of ground forces, respondents supported a 9 percent
increase in work on new ground programs such as tanks, artillery
and armored personnel carriers.
While Republicans and Democrats differed on the level of
defense cuts, in most cases they agreed that some level of
spending reductions were needed. Overall, Republicans on average
supported an $83 billion cut to defense spending for 2013, while
Democrats favored a $155.2 billion cut.
(Editing by Christopher Wilson)