Panetta Plays Last Card, Warns Defense Cuts Could Lead to Attack on the U.S.

Posted: November 10, 2011 in US News

Yochi J. Dreazen
National Journal
November 10, 2011

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has been steadily escalating his warnings about the impact of the deep cuts facing the Pentagon if the congressional super committee fails to reach a deal. On Thursday, he played the last – and strongest — card in his deck, arguing that the hundreds of billions of dollars of mandatory cuts would directly imperil U.S. national security.

The Defense chief has spent weeks publicly urging the 12 lawmakers on the panel to reach a deficit-reduction deal. On Tuesday, he departed from his prepared remarks during a speech to top National Guard officials and colorfully called on Congress to reach an agreement.

Lawmakers, Panetta said, needed to understand that U.S. troops “are willing to put their lives on the line to sacrifice for this country; you sure as hell can sacrifice to provide a little leadership to get the solution we need in order to solve this problem.”

He went even further on Thursday, using arguably the strongest rhetorical weapon in his arsenal. Mandatory defense cuts, he warned, would weaken the armed forces to the point that enemies would be emboldened to attack the U.S.

“In effect, it invites aggression,” Panetta said during the new conference, just his second since taking office in July.

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