Panetta and Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stressed during a regular Pentagon press conference that unless Congress acts, the nation’s military readiness will be compromised.
The United States has a number of adversaries around the world, Panetta said, “but the most immediate threat to our ability to achieve our mission is fiscal uncertainty: not knowing what our budget will be; not knowing if our budget will be drastically cut; and not knowing whether the strategy that we put in place can survive.”
Panetta emphasized that DOD “is doing its part” by implementing over the next decade the $487 billion spending reduction set by Congress. “We designed a strategy; we know what the elements of that strategy are; we built a budget based on that, and we achieved our savings by virtue of that strategy,” he said.
But the additional half-trillion-dollar “meat-axe cuts” sequester would trigger still loom “less than 50 days away,” the secretary noted.
“While we appreciate … that both parties came together to delay sequester, the unfortunate thing is sequester itself, and the sequester threat, [was] not removed,” Panetta said. “And the prospect … is undermining our ability to responsibly manage this department.”