Panetta Warns Lawmakers to Stop Kicking the Can
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said today that the 11th-hour fiscal cliff deal meant he didn't have to send out 800,000 furlough notices -- for now.
While much of the focus was on the Bush-era tax cuts -- made permanent for the middle class brackets -- the sequestration cuts that threaten to guy the Pentagon were delayed for two months.
"Hopefully, this will allow additional time to develop a balanced deficit reduction plan that would permanently prevent these arbitrary cuts," Panetta said in a statement today.
"Over the past few weeks, as we were forced to begin preparing to implement this law, my concerns about its damaging effects have only grown. As an example, had Congress failed to act, I would have been required to send out a notice to our 800,000 civilian employees that they could be subject to furlough."
He added that even though Congress averted "the worst possible outcome," the cloud still remains.
"The responsibility now is to eliminate it as a threat by enacting balanced deficit reduction. Congress cannot continue to just kick the can down the road," Panetta said.
"This Department is doing its part to help the country address its deficit problem by working to implement $487 billion in spending reductions in accordance with our new defense strategy. The specter of sequestration has cast a shadow over our efforts. We need to have stability in our future budgets. We need to have the resources to effectively execute our strategy, defend the nation, and meet our commitments to troops and their families after more than a decade of war," he continued.
"Every day, the men and women of this Department put their lives on the line to protect us all here at home. Those of us in Washington have no greater responsibility than to give them what they need to succeed and to come home safely."