A supercommittee failure would trigger at least $500 billion in cuts to national security spending, but there is no consensus on just where they will be made.
Lawmakers included the automatic cuts in the debt ceiling deal as an incentive to get Congress to agree to shave at least $1.2 trillion from the deficit.
But the language also gave policy makers plenty of leeway.
The cuts do not begin to take effect until January 2013, which gives Congress a full year to adapt them before they are implemented. There are also disagreements over language in the debt deal, which have led to different interpretations over what could be cut. All of this has led to predictions of huge lobbying fights on K Street and the halls of Congress, as well as dire warnings over the consequences of the cuts for both the nation’s security and economy.
“I don’t even want to contemplate what will happen next year,” House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King (R-N.Y.) said in a telephone interview.