Dysfunction’ in Congress puts US at risk–Panetta


Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki listens at right as outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta speaks at the Veterans Affairs Department in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013, following their meeting to discuss the growing collaboration between the departments on medical care for service members and veterans. AP/Susan Walsh

WASHINGTON – Chronic deadlock in Congress threatens to derail the US economy, damage national security and undermine public trust in its leaders, outgoing US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned Wednesday.

In his last major policy address days before he retires, the Pentagon chief blasted lawmakers for what he called a lack of leadership that has produced escalating budget crises.

The most urgent task facing the country is to overcome “partisan dysfunction in Congress that poses a threat to our quality of life, to our national security, to our economy, to our ability to address the problems that confront this country,” said Panetta, who served as a lawmaker from California before holding senior posts under two Democratic presidents.

“Today, crisis drives policy,” he told students at Georgetown University in the US capital. “It has become too politically convenient to simply allow a crisis to develop and get worse and then react to the crisis.”

But inaction is costly, he warned.

“The price to be paid is that you lose the trust of the American people. You create an aura of constant uncertainty that pervades every issue and gradually undermines the very credibility of this nation to be able to govern itself.”

Panetta’s tough speech comes as Congress faces a March 1 deadline to broker a budget deal to avert multi-billion dollar budget cuts, with military funding due to take a major hit.

The Pentagon chief, who served as CIA director before taking over as defense secretary in 2011, renewed his warning that if Congress fails to break the impasse, automatic budget cuts will jeopardize the military’s readiness and force cuts in training, maintenance and weapons programs.

Panetta’s frustration with the current bitter political climate was evident as he frequently strayed from his prepared text to drive home his point, lamenting that lawmakers apparently no longer knew how to compromise.

“I’ve seen that attitude before,” he said, recalling his days in Bill Clinton’s White House, when Republican lawmakers helped force a government shutdown in 1995 which “badly hurt the American people.”

“The same damn thing is going to happen again if they allow this to occur,” Panetta said.

The looming threat of automatic defense cuts of roughly $50 billion this fiscal year, along with Congress’s failure to adopt a proposed Pentagon budget for 2013, has forced the Defense Department to start laying off thousands of temporary workers while cancelling some maintenance.

The automatic cuts, or sequestration, were designed to be so dramatic that the prospect of so much pain would force lawmakers to cut a deal.

But instead, Panetta said, there are some members of Congress who have a “callous attitude” and are using the automatic cuts for tactical gain.

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  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_WIWYLFLU4LPKS7B2ZLLRVFKS3Y vir_a

    This is what the Republicans want to do to weaken Obama

  • SUMMER_OF_71

    Republicans in the US Congress just cannot accept the reality that they have a black President – worse, a re-elected one.  In the land of the free, even in this 21st century, racial discrimination is still alive and kicking.  Well, so much for their immortal declaration that all men are created equal.  Mr. Thomas Jefferson must be squirming in his grave.

  • noypisiTED

    America has extremely became a litigious country and a lot of its people cantankerous who all wanted to be first and prevail from the rest. The US Congress who is expected to breath life to the nation it serves by the laws it makes is the one who stuns moving forward. Its officialdom rips its other apart in full view of the TV-watching public and people came to regard it as democracy in action. Gone were the days of civility and respect characteristic of the golden values of yonder days where chivalry and noble traits were the rule rather than an exception. Learn from the classic “Trojan War” and learn why men and women of worth meet an ignominious fall. The same with civilizations of the past. China as of now has a single-party republic run by the straight-cut Communist Party where the belligerent and argumentative features typical of Western democracies are nearly taboo. This is the reason moving from one direction to another is easily navigable since only one party dictates the course of the nation. This belatedly-outspoken outgoing secretary of defense knows whereof he speaks. He has seen it and witnessed firsthand how the American government works and where it is precariously now. Listen to the man as he has something important to say while there’s still time.

  • Horst Manure

    USSA is finished no matter who is in control, the country is dead but won’t lay down

    • Crazy_horse101010

      you dont have a clue what is going on in america. if they die the world dies. first will be the stock markets and then the biggest depression this world has ever seen. teenagers are still buying their cars. millions of catholics are still trying to get into the country. they still think its the promised land.and its usa. im an american and im not losing any sleep over it.

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