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Senator Portman Talks Defense Spending Ahead Of "Supercommittee" Work

Both of Ohio’s U.S.senators were in Cleveland Sunday, participating in an interfaith commemoration of the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Republican Sen. Rob Portman says defending the U.S. against future attacks remains a priority, and one he’ll have a special responsibility to balance over the next three months. For Ohio Public Radio, Kabir Bhatia reports.

Senator Portman is on the “Supercommittee” that’s supposed to find $1.5 trillion in deficit reductions by Thanksgiving through increasing revenue and-or more cuts to domestic and defense spending.  The committee has met just once, and already is running into problems. Arizona Republican Senator John Kyl has threatened to walk unless defense cuts are put off limits.

Sen. Portman says national security is paramount, but savings could come from the way Defense Secretary Leon Panetta approaches future conflicts.

“I think we need to be better and more efficient in how we deploy our U.S. power.  Intelligence, soft power and diplomacy, and also military, so I think with more efficiencies we can do more with less, " says Portman. " But by the same token I think we have to be careful not to cut too deeply.”

The Supercommittee sprang from the deal that raised the debt ceiling in exchange for $2.1 trillion in cuts over the next 10 years.  Portman points out that that deal already cut projected increases in Pentagon spending by $350 billion.

“That reduction was approximately the same as the Department of Defense was looking at anyway over the next 10 years, so Defense has already been forced by the first act of Congress to look at its expenses. I would be concerned about going too far in that regard and the threat of hollowing out our military,” says Portman.

The Supercommittee of six senators and six congressman meets for its first public meeting on Tuesday.