Defense budget no game, says Panetta

Feb. 14, 2013 at 10:15 AM
| License Photo

WASHINGTON, Feb. 14 (UPI) -- Military readiness issues tied to uncertainty regarding the U.S. economy show lawmakers aren't fulfilling their duty, said Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

Panetta and other leaders at the U.S. Defense Department have been critical of political debates surrounding the billions of dollars in defense spending that may be cut in the so-called sequester.

Panetta said he was pleased that U.S. President Barack Obama expressed concerns over the matter during his State of the Union address Tuesday.

"Members of Congress need to understand that they were elected to protect the public, not to hurt the public," he said.

Overseas, NATO officials have expressed their own concerns that weak economies might not be able to support defense programs meant to ensure national and international security.

"This is not a game," Panetta said. "This is reality."

Panetta was speaking in what he said he believed was his final news conference at the Defense Department. Obama nominated former U.S. Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., as his replacement.

Republican critics have threatened to hold up Hagel's nomination vote on issues ranging from last year's terrorist attack in Libya to Hagel's stance on Iran.

Related UPI Stories
Latest Headlines
Trending Stories
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy drops bid for speaker
WikiLeaks offering $50K for video of Afghan hospital bombing
Murdoch sorry for implying Obama's not a 'real black president'
Reid sues exercise companies over eye injury
Lumber Liquidators to pay $10M in DOJ settlement