Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta called the supercommittee’s failure to reach agreement on a deficit reduction plan “a setback for the country’s efforts to achieve fiscal responsibility while protecting our national security.”  As a result of the supercommittee’s inaction, Panetta said in a press statement, the across-the-board cuts required by the Budget Control Act “will tear a seam in the nation’s defense.”

He reiterated the warning he and the Joint Chiefs of Staff have been stressing about the dire effects on defense capabilities if the automatic cuts are implemented.  He said $500 billion in automatic cuts (over 10 years) would have a “devastating” effect on DoD’s ability to protect the nation, which he called his number one responsibility.  The secretary said the automatic cuts would hollow-out the force, making it “incapable of sustaining the missions it is assigned.”

Panetta said the department’s strategy-driven effort to cut DoD’s budget by $450 billion over 10 years represents defense’s contribution to the administration’s efforts to get “the country’s fiscal house in order.”  But, he said Congress’ inability to come up with solutions to the deficit problem will lead to unacceptable cuts to defense.  He urged Congress to avoid sequestration by agreeing on an alternative plan to find $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction.