Defense Secretary warns that possible cuts loom

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February 20, 2013, 5:36 pm
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(NECN/NBC News: Jennifer Johnson) - Dire predictions tonight from the Defense Secretary.

Leon Panetta tells Congress that if automatic government spending cuts kick in March 1, most of the Defense Department's 800,000 civilian workers will have to be furloughed starting in late April.

Congress has just over a week to come up with a deficit reduction deal or those cuts, greatly affecting the Pentagon, will take effect.

The Defense Department will take the biggest hit if Congress can't come up with a budget deal and the so-called sequester, $85 billion in across-the-board, automatic spending cuts go into effect by law.

"I think we will have serious readiness effects. I don't know where we will get the money. These are legally binding limits. We will have to cut back on training significantly," stated Robert Hale, Under Secretary of Defense/Comptroller.

In a letter to Congress, Defense Secretary Panetta said the "vast majority" of the departments 800,000 civilian workers will have to be furloughed, one day a week, in essence, a 20-percent pay cut.

New Secretary of State John Kerry warned of global consequences unless Congress acts.

"In these days of a looming budget sequester that everyone wants to avoid, we can't be strong in the world unless we are strong at home," said Kerry.

Everyday government workers will be most impacted.

Furloughs or layoffs will hit Federal Food Inspectors, TSA, FBI, and Border Patrol Agents, as well as every budget from education to meals-on-wheels.

Republicans say Democrats want to increase taxes and not cut enough spending, while the white house blames the GOP for protecting the rich and not closing tax loopholes.

The result?

Budget gridlock again in Washington that could affect millions of American workers.

Tags: congress, defense, deficit, John Kerry, secretary, Leon Panetta
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