Panetta in Conn.: US must protect industrial base

By MICHAEL MELIA | November 17, 2011 | 4:35 PM EST

GROTON, Conn. (AP) — Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says budget cuts that would take effect if a congressional panel fails to agree on a deficit-trimming plan would "hollow out" the United States military.

Panetta addressed about 200 workers Thursday at the Groton, Conn., shipyard of Electric Boat, the Navy's primary contractor for submarines.

He said after a shipyard tour that the U.S. has to protect its military industrial base.

The panel in Washington is working toward a Thanksgiving deadline to come up with at least $1.2 trillion in deficit savings over the next 10 years. Failure to produce a measure would trigger across-the-board cuts to the Pentagon budget.

Panetta said earlier this week that the potential cuts would include a reduction in the number of new ballistic-missile submarines to replace the aging Ohio class.