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Pentagon on Furlough Notice as 'Unengaged' Obama Demands Tax Hikes

"And it’s important to understand that if they hold that position and the sequester goes into effect, it will go into effect and those Americans will lose their jobs because Republicans made a choice for that to happen," Carney said.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) slammed Obama for being "persistently unengaged, refusing to allow the Pentagon to plan for these cuts."

"These men and women, many of whom have dedicated their careers to their country, deserve better than to be treated as pawns in a game of political brinksmanship," McKeon said. "…As these cuts loom, the 'balanced' proposals President Obama has belatedly embraced to prevent sequestration include tens of billions in additional cuts to our military, cuts that could put many of these jobs in jeopardy even without the meat axe of sequestration."

In contrast to the White House's repeated calls for additional cuts to the military as a necessary component of a sequestration replacement, last week Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told McKeon's committee, "What do you want your military to do? If you want it to be doing what it's doing today, then we can't give you another dollar."

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said he agrees with Panetta that the cuts will be devastating to the military, but the outgoing Defense secretary has no one to blame but his boss.

"Despite dire warnings from his own Secretary of Defense for more than a year that the sequester would ‘hollow out’ our military, the president has yet to put forward a specific plan that can pass his Democratic-controlled Senate, and has exerted no pressure on the Democratic leadership of the Senate to actually pass legislation to replace the sequester he proposed," Boehner said. "As the commander-in-chief, President Obama is ultimately responsible for our military readiness, so it’s fair to ask: what is he doing to stop his sequester that would ‘hollow out’ our Armed Forces?”

Panetta's official notification letter to Boehner said the Pentagon remains "hopeful" that a deal can be reached to avoid sequestration, but must plan for reductions.

"Overall, sequestration will put us on a path toward a hollow force and inflict serious damage on our national security," Panetta wrote. "…While furloughs would be disruptive and damaging to our ability to carry out the defense mission, there are no viable alternatives for the Department if sequestration actually occurs."

Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), a member of the Armed Services Committee whose district includes Hill Air Force Base, said the current stalemate "isn’t a blame game, it’s the truth."

"The Senate and President Obama have done nothing to stop sequestration despite the fact that there is broad bipartisan support to do so. Top military leaders and the Secretary of Defense have informed us in no uncertain terms that sequestration will have dire consequences," Bishop said.

"As commander-in-chief, the president is responsible for ensuring the health and viability of our national defense capabilities—yet he appears unengaged. With only a few days left until sequestration, the president is reported to have been playing golf in Florida. He has certainly proven capable of leisure, now it’s time to prove that he’s capable of leadership.”

Republicans agreed that this disengagement is driven by a singular agenda.

"It is only the president's political desire to raise taxes yet again, as a function of the sequester he proposed, while ignoring reforms to the unsustainable entitlement programs driving our debt, that is forcing this crisis to continue," McKeon said.