WASHINGTON President Barack Obama said on Friday that deep across-the-board government spending cuts that will go into effect on March 1 unless Congress acts to prevent them could have a "severe impact" on U.S. military preparedness.
"There is no reason, no reason for that to happen," Obama said at a farewell ceremony for outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.
"Putting our fiscal house in order calls for a balanced approach, not massive indiscriminate cuts that could have a severe impact on our military preparedness," he said.
Obama also expressed confidence in his nominee to replace Panetta as Pentagon chief, former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, who had a rocky confirmation hearing last week with a full Senate vote yet to be scheduled.
"Keeping us prepared will be the mission of my nominee to be the next secretary of defense, a combat veteran with the experience, judgment and vision that our troops deserve, Chuck Hagel," Obama said.
(Reporting By Mark Felsenthal and Matt Spetalnick; Editing by David Brunnstrom)