Panetta: Defense Budget Cuts Will Damage Economy

February 6, 2013

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Wednesday laid out a grim list of spending cuts the Pentagon will have to make in the coming weeks that he said will seriously damage the country's economy and degrade the military's ability to respond to a crisis.

Slamming members of Congress as irresponsible, Panetta said lawmakers are willing to push the country off a fiscal cliff to damage their opposing political parties.

He said that if Congress doesn't pass a budget the Pentagon will have to absorb $46 billion in spending reductions in this fiscal year and will face a $35 billion shortfall in operating expenses.

"My fear is that there is a dangerous and callous attitude that is developing among some Republicans and some Democrats, that these dangerous cuts can be allowed to take place in order to blame the other party for the consequences," Panetta said in a speech at Georgetown University. "This is a kind of 'so what?' attitude that says, 'Let's see how bad it can get in order to have the other party blink'."

In separate, highly detailed memos sent to Congress, the military services described widespread civilian furloughs, layoffs and hiring freezes that will hit workers all around the country. Overall, the military will furlough 800,000 civilian workers for 22 days, spread across more than five months, and will lay off as many as 46,000 temporary and contract employees.

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