Panetta said Thursday cuts beyond the $400 billion in savings planned over the next decade could weaken the military and make it difficult to defend the United States from future attacks, The Washington Post reported Friday.
"We're already taking our share of the discretionary cuts as part of this debt-ceiling agreement and those are going to be tough enough," Panetta said in his first news conference as defense secretary. "I think anything beyond that would damage our national defense."
The first round of defense cuts are part of a debt-reduction plan approved by Congress to cut about $1 trillion from government budgets over a decade. A bipartisan congressional panel will identify a second round of cuts worth $1.5 trillion later this year.
If the panel can't agree on the second round of cuts, an automatic trigger would cut an additional $600 billion from the Pentagon's budget.
"You cannot deal with the size deficits that this country is confronting by simply cutting the discretionary side of the budget," Panetta said.
Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the cuts would be debilitating and capricious."
"We cannot allow that effort to go so far and cut so deep that it jeopardizes our ability to deal with the other very real and very serious threats we face around the world," said Mullen, who joined Panetta at the news conference.