Defense Secretary Leon Panetta just issued the following statement related to the deal reached in Congress on the so-called “fiscal cliff,” which included automatic cuts in military spending:
On behalf of the Department of Defense, I want to express our thanks to the Democratic and Republican Members of Congress who voted to temporarily avert sequestration. Hopefully, this will allow additional time to develop a balanced deficit reduction plan that would permanently prevent these arbitrary cuts.
“Had Congress not acted, the Department of Defense — along with other federal agencies — would have been forced to begin taking dramatic steps that would have severely impacted our civilian personnel and disrupted our mission. For more than a year, I have made clear that sequestration would have a devastating impact on the Department. Over the past few weeks, as we were forced to begin preparing to implement this law, my concerns about its damaging effects have only grown. As an example, had Congress failed to act, I would have been required to send out a notice to our 800,000 civilian employees that they could be subject to furlough.
“Congress has prevented the worst possible outcome by delaying sequestration for two months. Unfortunately, the cloud of sequestration remains. 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.
“This Department is doing its part to help the country address its deficit problem by working to implement $487 billion in spending reductions in accordance with our new defense strategy. The specter of sequestration has cast a shadow over our efforts. 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.
“Every day, the men and women of this Department put their lives on the line to protect us all here at home. Those of us in Washington have no greater responsibility than to give them what they need to succeed and to come home safely. My hope is that in the next two months, all of us in the leadership of the nation and the Congress can work together to provide that stability and to prevent sequestration once and for all. Our national security demands no less.”