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Philippines diplomat: U.S. defense cuts ‘giving us nightmares’

In response to a question about the sequestration cuts from Rep. Randy Forbes, the Philippines Embassy‚??s Deputy Chief of Mission, Maria Austria, admitted the prospect was deeply troubling.

Though Congress seems to have grown silent about the looming threat of massive defense cuts, allied nations that rely on the U.S. for military support are losing sleep over it.

That was a message shared during a Tuesday panel discussion on U.S.-Asia relations with foreign ambassadors sponsored by the conservative Foreign Policy Initiative.

In response to a question about the sequestration cuts from forum moderator Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.), the Philippines Embassy‚??s Deputy Chief of Mission, Maria Austria, admitted the prospect was deeply troubling.

‚??Of course, the threat of sequestration is giving us nightmares considering the U.S. remains our biggest source of foreign military financing,‚?Ě she said.

The U.S. tripled its foreign military aid to the Philippines to $30 million this year, in keeping with a much-publicized military pivot to Asia that is planned over the next several years.

According to the U.S. State Department, roughly 90 countries in total receive U.S. foreign military financing in amounts anywhere from $200,000 to $3 billion.

And those funds are due for sequester cuts of $518 million, or roughly one-tenth of the total budget for foreign military aid.

Austria added that she was hopeful her country would retain U.S. support even if the cuts did take place.

‚??We‚??re taking heart in the commitment made by the administration and President Obama that despite all of this, Asia Pacific, not just the Philippines remains a top priority,‚?Ě she said.

But if the president‚??s priorities are a sign, the prospects of avoiding sequestration defense cuts may be grim.

In the two press conferences Obama has given since his re-election, including a brief appearance today, he has not once mentioned military budget cuts despite angst from the Pentagon, defense contractors, and even mayors of military-heavy U.S. cities.

The cuts, scheduled to begin Jan. 2, 2013, will lop over half a trillion dollars from the defense budget over the next decade if an alternative plan is not set in place. The cuts are expected to be disproportionately devastating in the first year of implementation.

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Written By

Hope Hodge first covered military issues for the Daily News of Jacksonville, N.C., where her beat included the sprawling Marine Corps base, Camp Lejeune. During her two years at the paper, she received investigative reporting awards for exposing a former Marine who was using faked military awards to embezzle disability pay from the government and for breaking news about the popularity of the designer drug Spice in the ranks. Her work has also appeared in The American Spectator, New York Sun, WORLD Magazine, and The Washington Post. Hodge was born near Boston, Mass., where she grew up as a lover of Revolutionary War history and fall foliage. She also discovered a love of politics and policy as a grassroots volunteer and activist on Beacon Hill. She graduated in 2009 with a degree in Politics, Philosophy, and Economics from The King's College in New York City, where she served as editor-in-chief of her school newspaper and worked as a teaching assistant when not freelancing or using student discounts to see Broadway shows. Hope‚??s email is HHodge@eaglepub.com

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