Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said this week that the nation does not have to “choose between national security and our fiscal security,” but he urged Congress to avoid what he called “disastrous” cuts scheduled to start in January in both defense and domestic programs.
“My view is that when you're facing the size deficits and debt that we're facing, that obviously defense has to play a role in trying to be able to achieve fiscal responsibility,” Panetta said on ABC’s “This Week.” He added that the defense budget had already been pared back to meet congressional requirements in a way that “meets not only the goal of savings but also, more importantly, protects a strong national defense for this country.”
But Panetta, whose previous positions included White House budget director in the Clinton administration, expressed strong concern about the automatic cuts that were included in the 2011 law increasing the debt limit. These “automatic” cuts – also called “sequestration” -- are scheduled to start in January because the congressional super committee last year failed to agree on a deficit-reduction package.
“I think what both Republicans and Democrats need to do, and the leaders on both sides, is to recognize that if sequester takes place, it would be disastrous for our national defense and very frankly for a lot of very important domestic programs,“ Panetta said. “They have a responsibility to come together, find the money necessary to de-trigger sequester. That's what they ought to be working on now.”
The Concord Coalition encourages elected officials to look for savings in all parts of the federal budget, including defense. Concord also urges Congress not to abandon the automatic cuts without approving sufficient alternative measures to curb future deficits.