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.
|Additional Special Reports Stories|
DAYTON, Iowa, May 22 (UPI) --As searchers in Iowa hunted Wednesday for an abducted teenage girl, a law enforcement official called the discovery of two backpacks and a purse major leads.
NEW YORK, May 22 (UPI) --CBS says it has ordered a single-camera comedy based on the 2011 Hollywood film "Bad Teacher" for the 2013-14 television season.
WASHINGTON, May 22 (UPI) --Sales of existing U.S. homes rose in April and were 9.7 percent higher than in April 2012, a trade group in Washington said Wednesday.