Defense Secretary Panetta warns cuts could result in massive defense industrial base losses that would harm the U.S. economy.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in a Pentagon briefing Sept. 20, both reiterated previous warnings against the “devastating” cuts to defense spending that could result from the institution of a sequestration that would level billions in across-the-board budget cuts.
To avoid the sequestration, which would automatically kick in if a congressional supercommittee charged with identifying federal savings fails to agree on action, Panetta said he is focusing his efforts on protecting against potentially detrimental reductions in defense spending.
“There will be tough decisions and tough trade-offs. This will force us to take on greater risk,” Panetta said, adding that his goal is to ensure inevitable risks are acceptable by maintaining the all-volunteer force and securing core national interests. “We still face a devastating [sequestration] that will make us unable to protect against a range of threats.”
He also warned that the impact of sequestration-enacted cuts would hurt more than just defense and national security, stressing that drastic reductions and the cancellation of major weapons programs also would cripple the industrial base.
Panetta recently said that the sequestration cuts could add 1 percent to the national unemployment rate from job losses in government, military and private sector jobs within the defense industrial base. Citing a new Pentagon analysis, DOD spokesman George Little said the defense industrial base provides 3.8 million private sector jobs, per the Associated Press.
In what was likely his last press conference as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mullen echoed Panetta’s comments and pressed for aggressive action in identifying savings within DOD.
“These must be strategy-driven decisions ... that start with a clear-eyed assessment. We should end missions and capabilities that don’t comport with our strategy,” Mullen said.
Both officials stressed the need to see the budget pressure as a chance to trim the excess in DOD budgets.
“We should use this as an opportunity to shape the very best defense we can for this country ... so we can take on the threats we face over the next 10 years,” Panetta said. “We have an opportunity to set priority here.”