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Panetta Confident Congress Will Act to End Sequestration Threat

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

SINGAPORE, June 2, 2012 – The U.S. Congress created a self-imposed crisis in the national budget that they must now resolve, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said today.

After his keynote address here this morning at the 11th annual Asia security conference known as the Shangri-La Dialogue, the secretary responded to attendees’ questions, some of which challenged the administration’s ability to carry out its Asia-Pacific strategy if sequestration takes effect.

Sequestration refers to a mechanism built into the Budget Control Act that would trigger an additional $500 billion across-the-board cut in defense spending over the next decade if Congress doesn’t identify that level of spending cuts by January.

By building that provision into the act as a first step toward reining in the nation’s debt, Congress put a gun to its own head, the secretary said. 

“Sequester is not a real crisis, it’s an artificial crisis,” Panetta said. 

Both parties in Congress recognize that doubling cuts to the nation’s defense budget would be a disaster, he added.

“I know of no Republican, no Democrat, who believes that should happen,” the secretary said.

Congress has the responsibility to take action now to end the threat of sequestration, he said.

“I believe that they will work to do that,” he said. “… I’m confident that ultimately, Republicans and Democrats will find a way to de-trigger that artificial crisis that they put in place.”

Panetta said he is confident Congress will deal effectively with the nation’s economic challenges. In his experience as a congressman and as director of the Office of Management and Budget, the secretary added, he learned it was important for both parties to put everything on the table: defense and domestic spending, entitlements and revenues.

“I know the politics of this is difficult … but I ultimately believe that because it is so important to our country and to our economy … they will find the courage that is required here, to be able to develop that kind of approach to deficit reduction,” Panetta said.

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