U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta urged lawmakers to deal with the specter of defense cuts in a Jan. 2 statement. (MCS 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley / U.S. Navy)
The day after Congress passed a bill delaying defense spending cuts for two months, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta continued to press lawmakers to pass a balanced deal to lower the nation’s deficit.
“Unfortunately, the cloud of sequestration remains,” Panetta said in a Jan. 2 statement. “The responsibility now is to eliminate it as a threat by enacting balanced deficit reduction. Congress cannot continue to just kick the can down the road.”
If lawmakers did not pass legislation on Jan. 1 delaying defense spending cuts, DoD would have been forced to start cutting $63 billion from its budget. But the Pentagon still faces those cuts if Congress cannot pass a deficit reduction plan by early March.
Those cuts would not affect military pay, but 800,000 DoD civilians would face furloughs, primarily to pay for operations in Afghanistan.
Panetta reiterated the Pentagon has already coughed up $487 billion in cuts to planned spending over the next decade. Under sequestration, DoD spending would be cut an additional $500 billion over that same period.
“The specter of sequestration has cast a shadow over our efforts,” Panetta said. “We need to have stability in our future budgets. We need to have the resources to effectively execute our strategy, defend the nation, and meet our commitments to troops and their families after more than a decade of war.”
DoD officials are waiting to get direction from the White House Office of Management and Budget as to how it should proceed with its 2014 budget planning. Typically, the White House sends its budget proposal for the following fiscal year to Congress in February.