WASHINGTON – The Pentagon is trying to cut the cost of one of its main efforts in Afghanistan, the building of army and police forces able to secure the country after international forces leave.
Several defense officials said Tuesday that they're reassessing the budget of the multibillion-a-year program, looking first for savings on equipment, rather than people. But it's unclear whether they can save enough without also scaling back plans for increasing the size of the Afghan army and police forces to a planned 352,000 from the current 302,000.
Speaking privately because planning is still under way, they said the first to go will likely be things like air conditioning and other expensive equipment the Afghans might not need to do their jobs and might be unable to maintain in the future.
The funding review comes as the Pentagon works on spending cuts mandated in the debt legislation passed over the summer, which called for a decrease of $400 billion in security spending, mostly defense, over 10 years.
"Real defense cuts are coming," Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain told the nominee for the No. 2 civilian job at the Pentagon on Tuesday. At a Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearing for Ashton Carter to be deputy defense secretary, McCain said budget tightening will require a culture change at the Pentagon.