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GOP bill would reduce federal retiree benefits to offset defense cuts

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An aerial view of the Pentagon building in Washington.Reuters

Two Republican lawmakers have introduced a proposal that would require federal employees to contribute more of their salary toward retiree benefits in order to offset deep cuts to the Defense Department.

The "Provide for the Common Defense Act," introduced by Reps. Jim Bridenstine, R-Okla., and Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., would eliminate sequester-related budget cuts for the Pentagon over the next two years, the lawmakers said in a statement. 

The legislation increases federal employee's contributions toward their retirement costs, from 0.8 percent to 2.0 percent of pay, over a three-year period. The bill would also eliminate the Federal Employee Retirement System Annuity Supplement for new employees.  

Bridenstine said in a statement that the bill would also reduce the national deficit by $200 billion over ten years in part by changing the way cost of living adjustments are calculated for Social Security and other mandatory spending programs. 

"President Obama is hollowing out our military, emboldening our enemies to be even more aggressive, and encouraging our friends to align with the East. This bill strengthens defense, reforms entitlements, and reduces the national deficit," Bridenstine said. 

The Pentagon has already announced a series of cutbacks in response to the sequester cuts, which amount to $54 billion annually for the department over the next 10 years.  

"Completely eliminating the Department of Defense would not even pay off this year’s deficit – let alone seriously reduce our $17 trillion national debt. Congress needs to give our military relief rather than use it as a punching bag. Even President Obama must realize that out-of-control entitlement spending is drowning our country in debt," Lamborn said in a statement.  

The bill comes as lawmakers are trying to hammer out a new spending bill for 2014. With Congress facing a Jan. 15 deadline, some are pushing for another short-term measure. Whether lawmakers will keep in place the sequester remains unclear. 

Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, sent a letter to Budget Conference Committee leaders on Wednesday, urging them to reject "draconian proposals to require federal employees to pay substantially more for their retirement."  

Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced Wednesday that he's cutting his Pentagon staff by 20 percent in an effort to save at least $1 billion over five years, as part of broader across-the-board cutbacks at the Defense Department.  

Hagel, at a news conference with Chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, urged Congress to avoid another year of mandatory budget cuts known as sequester. 

"Much of these savings will be achieved through contractor reductions, although there will be reductions in civilian personnel," Hagel said. "Ultimately other headquarters elements will be implementing similar" cuts.

The plan is part of a larger proposal to reorganize his staff and trim the budgets of various civilian defense headquarters.