In Letter, Panetta Spells Out the Harsh ‘What Ifs’ if Supercommittee Fails

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Leon Panetta

All the talk in Washington is about the deficit reduction supercommittee and if it will reach a deal by Thanksgiving.

If a deal is not set, severe military cutbacks will incur and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is warning lawmakers of the potential consequences.

According to an ABC News report, Panetta is worried about the possible $600 billion in cuts that would be a direct result of the supercommittee’s failure to reach an agreement and that is evident in a recent made public letter as well.

In letters exchanged between Panetta, Sens. John McCain(R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Panetta defines what effects the sequester would have stating a 23 percent cut to the nation’s defense program.

“Shipbuilding and construction contracts would have to be curtailed, and civilian personnel and contractors would have to be furloughed, ” said McCain and Graham in response to Panetta’s letter.

Panetta indicates that, “while large cuts are being imposed, the threats to national security would not be reduced,” and includes a fact sheet that clearly defines what a sequestration budget may mean, especially in the long run.

Long term effects defined by Panetta include a 20 percent reduction in Pentagon funding for the coming ten years, severe reductions of force training, which Panetta believes “threaten overall operational readiness,” and will result in the smallest force since 1940 and smallest fleet of ships since 1915.

The budget constraints could even pose a problem to the U.S. nuclear capabilities, since the cuts would include eliminating some nuclear missiles. Panetta also says that ISR systems could be terminated as well as helicopter modernization programs and European missile defense.

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