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Panetta Warns of ‘Paper Tiger’ U.S. if Super Committee Fails: Confirms $260B Cuts

Posted by Carlo Munoz on

Pentagon: It’s official: the Pentagon will get roughly halfway to the Obama administration’s goal of cutting up to $500 billion in defense spending over the next five years.

Department officials will finalize details of the $260 billion in cuts “in the coming weeks,” Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said today. Those will be part of the Pentagon’s six-year budget blueprint due to Congress in early February. Panetta did not provide specifics on what those cuts would include but the message sent was clear: The Pentagon is doing its job. Now lawmakers on Capitol Hill must do theirs.

The congressional Super Committee has less than two weeks to come up with a plan to cut $1.2 trillion in spending across the government. If the bipartisan panel fails to come up with a viable plan, Pentagon coffers could be slashed by $500 billion. Piled on top of the cuts already mandated by the White House, the Pentagon would be staring down a $1 trillion spending cut should the committee fail.

Failure, Panetta warned, would come at a very high cost.

“It’s a ship without sailors. It’s a brigade without bullets. It’s an air wing without enough trained pilots. It’s a paper tiger. An Army of barracks, buildings and bombs without enough trained soldiers able to accomplish the mission. It’s a force that suffers low morale, poor readiness, and is unable to keep up with potential adversaries. In effect, it invites aggression,” he said.

His words recalled comments by former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen — just before he retired — that automatic Super Committee cuts would break the military.

“A hollow military does not happen by accident,” Panetta told reporters, adding such a situation would be a result of “poor stewardship” of government resources — a comment clearly aimed straight at the Hill and members of the Super Committee. “I guess my message to the Congress is that it must show the necessary leadership by doing the job that they’ve been asked to do. That means identifying savings in the two- thirds of the federal budget that still has yet to be considered for deficit reduction, along, in my view, with additional revenues.”

Then Panetta offered a contrast that might roil the guts of those lawmakers willing and able to listen: “If this nation has brave young men and women who are willing to die . . . in order to sacrifice for this country, it really shouldn’t be too much to ask our leaders to sacrifice just a little to provide the leadership essential to solving the problems facing this country.” Will they listen?

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