Defense Secretary Leon Panetta today said political gridlock in Congress constitutes a national security threat, and he warned that additional defense spending cuts would devastate the military. The Secretary was referring to the August deficit reduction bill, which raises the debt ceiling and calls on Congress to pass at least $1.2T in additional savings in order to avoid automatic cuts in defense and other spending. Secretary Panetta says President Obama is opposed to further cuts. He’s was joined at the House Armed Services Committee by the new Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey.
In his first policy speech since taking office in July, Secretary Panetta warned Tuesday against automatic spending cuts that would be triggered if Congress does not come up with additional cuts on its own by the end of the year. He told the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars that “I refuse to be a witness to fate” and announced his intent to address the looming defense budget cuts.
"I have promised that we do not have to choose between national security and fiscal security," Panetta said. "To that end, we are adjusting our strategy and rebalancing our military to better confront the most pressing security needs. As a Department, we have to seize this moment as an opportunity to think hard about the future security environment and the military we will need to face it."
Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Dempsey will be among the key voices in recommending where to cut the defense budget over the next ten years.Dempsey said in his confirmation hearing that the U.S. cannot successfully manage international affairs and national security without continued influence through a strong military along with a stable economy.