SINGAPORE – U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta might be on the other side of the world touting the Pentagon’s plans to focus more on the Pacific region, but that’s not stopping him from coming up with some new ways to characterize sequestration.
“Sequester is not a real crisis, it’s an artificial crisis,” Panetta said when asked about the looming defense budget cuts during a June 2 question-and-answer session at the Shangri-La Dialog.
The cuts – $1.2 trillion over 10 years, $500 billion of which would hit DoD — are supposed to go into effect in January, unless Congress finds another way to lower the U.S. deficit.
“The Congress itself developed [sequestration] as a weapon to try to force them to make decisions with regard to further deficit reduction and they put that gun to their head to basically say that if they didn’t do it, the gun would go off,” he said.
Since the failure of the bipartisan congressional supercommittee in November, senior DoD officials have referred to sequestration as everything from assisted suicide to fiscal castration.
Pentagon officials argue the cuts would destroy DoD’s new military strategy, which already takes into consideration $487 billion in defense cuts over the next decade as mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011.
But analysts believe Congress will not address the pending cuts until after November’s presidential and congressional elections.
Republicans and Democrats recognize sequestration “would be a disaster.” Panetta said.
“[T]hey have the responsibility then to take action now to de-trigger sequester from taking effect,” he said. “I believe that they will work to do that … because I think there isn’t anyone that wants that to happen.”