Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta blasted Congress March 30 for threatening the Defense Department with sequestration he said would be devastating to the force.
“Congress did a stupid thing,” he told crewmembers of USS Peleliu during a shipboard visit off the Southern California coast. “What they essentially did was to put a gun to their heads and to the head of the country and basically say that if they did not come up with a plan to reduce the deficit, that this so-called sequester process would go into effect.”
That process, the secretary explained, would cut $1.2 trillion in federal spending across the board – almost $500 billion to come from the defense budget.
The cuts would be implemented across the board, he said, guaranteeing that the force would be hollowed out in the process. “It would guarantee that every area would be cut,” Panetta said. “It would guarantee that it would weaken our defense system for the future.”
Panetta expressed disappointment that a specially appointed congressional deficit-reduction committee hasn’t been able to come up with solutions that will prevent sequestration from triggering in January 2013.
“I’m doing everything possible to tell Congress that it would be irresponsible to let that happen,” he told the crew. “But my biggest concern is that Congress has got to find the strength, the courage and the will to get this done.”
Panetta said he’s pointed to the example of the U.S. military to encourage Congress to do the right thing.
“I told the members of Congress, ‘Look, I’ve got men and women that put their heads, their lives on the line every day to protect this country. I’m just asking you to assume just a little bit of risk here to do what’s right for this country and to solve the problems that we face,’” he told the group.
“‘If my men in women can do this, then you can do it as well,’” Panetta said he told Congress. “So I’m hoping that ultimately they’ll do what’s right and that [sequestration] won’t happen.”