Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told lawmakers Thursday that the trigger outlined in the recent debt-ceiling package, which would impose an additional $600 billion in cuts to the Pentagon’s budget if a congressional super-committee fails to reach an agreement, was a “doomsday mechanism” that could seriously undermine U.S. national security:
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned lawmakers Thursday not to enact a “doomsday mechanism” that would slash an additional $600 billion from the Pentagon budget, saying that such cuts would pose a severe threat to U.S. national security.
The $600 billion in new cuts would kick in only if a bipartisan congressional panel cannot reach agreement on $1.2 trillion in budget savings over the next decade.
But even the prospect of such cuts has prompted officials this week to sound the alarms, with a senior defense official warning that the military could be forced to furlough thousands of employees and Panetta issuing a message to Defense Department personnel declaring that cuts of $600 billion would be “completely unacceptable” to him and to the president.
“If it happened, and God willing that would not be the case, but if it did happen, it would result in a further round of very dangerous cuts across the board – defense cuts that I believe would do real damage to our security, our troops and their families, and our military’s ability to protect the nation.”
Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, echoed Panetta’s concerns, saying: “To loosen the pin unnecessarily through debilitating and capricious cuts … puts at grave risk not only our ability to accomplish this missions we have assigned, but those we have yet to be assigned as well.”