WASHINGTON Nov 21 Automatic spending cuts that
could result from a special congressional committee's failure
to reach a deficit-reduction agreement could "tear a seam" in
U.S. defense, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on Monday.
The so-called super committee's failure on Monday to agree
on $1.2 trillion in deficit-cutting measures triggers up to
$600 billion in additional defense cuts over 10 years beginning
"If Congress fails to act over the next year, the
Department of Defense will face devastating, automatic,
across-the-board cuts that will tear a seam in the nation's
defense," Panetta said in a statement.
"The half-trillion in additional cuts demanded by sequester
would lead to a hollow force incapable of sustaining the
missions it is assigned."
Republicans have vowed to prevent automatic cuts from
hitting the military. Republican Representative Buck McKeon,
chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, announced on
Monday he would introduce legislation to prevent the military
cuts from taking effect.
President Barack Obama, accusing Republicans of scuttling
the committee's efforts by refusing to consider tax increases
on the wealthy, said he would veto any effort to bypass the
Panetta said he backed Obama's "call for Congress to avoid
an easy way out of this crisis. Congress cannot simply turn off
the sequester mechanism, but instead must pass deficit
reduction at least equal to the $1.2 trillion it was charged to
During the months the super committee deliberated, Panetta
consistently urged lawmakers not to reduce national security
spending beyond the more than $450 billion already approved by
Congress in August.
Panetta said he had made clear the Pentagon had a
responsibility to help the United States get its fiscal house
in order, but added his primary responsibility as secretary of
defense "is to protect the security of the nation."
The Pentagon's ability to provide benefits and support for
for U.S. troops and their families also would be jeopardized if
the automatic cuts are allowed to go into effect, he said.
"Our troops deserve better, and our nation demands better,"