Friday, August 5, 2011

Pentagon warns against dire budget cut

US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta speaks during a news conference at the Pentagon, Thursday, August 4, 2011

Source: Press TV

US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has warned of "disastrous" consequences in case the country's military budget is further reduced over its ongoing financial crisis.

“I'm not even beginning to consider what would happen with regards to sequestration. All I know is that, from the review we've been doing, for what we have to deal with in these numbers, that anything that doubles that would be disastrous to the defense budget,” Reuters quoted Panetta as saying.

The US defense chief made the remark on Thursday in a joint press conference with Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen in Virginia.

He went on to say that the $350 billion of proposed cuts in defense spending was manageable as part of the overall deficit-cutting package signed earlier this week by US President Barack Obama, but warned against greater cuts.

"…We're already taking our share of the discretionary cuts as part of this debt ceiling agreement. And those are going to be tough enough. But I think anything beyond that would damage our national defense,” Panetta noted.

In his first news conference since taking over from Robert Gates a month ago, Panetta voiced strong opposition to a conditional second round in military expenditure -- of as much as $600 billion -- which was agreed between the White House and Congress as part of a deal to lift the country's $14.3 trillion debt ceiling.

The hard-fought legislative deal calls for an initial $350 billion in savings over the next decade. Then, under a process called sequestration, the Pentagon could face a potential second round of cuts in security spending, estimated at about $600 billion from fiscal year 2012 to 2021.

On Tuesday, Obama voted in favor of a bipartisan plan to raise the debt ceiling of the US in exchange for spending cuts, just hours before a default would take place.

According to the new bill, the debt ceiling will be raised by $2.4 trillion, reaching a total of $16.7 trillion. The bill also includes a $2.1 trillion in spending cuts over the next decade.

The cuts could affect such entitlement programs of the country as Medicare, Social Security, and military expenditures.

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