Wrangling ensues over U.S. defense budget

Feb. 6, 2013 at 12:02 PM
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WASHINGTON, Feb. 6 (UPI) -- Federal spending cuts should come first in any effort to address the U.S. deficit problem, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said.

Congress in a New Year's Day vote postponed a series of automatic budget cuts known as sequestration until the end of March. The deal delayed billions of dollars in military spending reductions.

Bruce Josten, an executive vice president at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, called on U.S. President Barack Obama and members of Congress to focus on tax and entitlement reform first.

"The chamber has long stated that the sequester should be replaced with prioritized spending cuts," Josten said in a statement.

Obama said Tuesday he was calling on lawmakers to pass a "smaller packing of spending cuts and tax reforms" to avert the sequester before the March deadline.

Outgoing U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said "fiscal uncertainty" was one of the more immediate threats to national security. His comments were echoed by NATO Secretary-General Andres Fogh Rasmussen who said "broke" allies can't do much to ensure international security.

Panetta was quoted Wednesday by CNN as saying combat readiness was in jeopardy because of congressional budget issues.

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