Panetta on Fiscal Cliff: Kicking the Can Down the Road Is the ‘Last Damn Thing I Need’

By Melanie Arter | November 26, 2012 | 12:36 PM EST

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, left, and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey participate in a joint news conference at the Pentagon, Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

( Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said last week that the last thing he needs is for Congress to “kick the can down the road” on dealing with the fiscal cliff.

“The worst thing that can happen frankly from my perspective is if they just kick the can down the road. All that would wind up doing is continuing to present a shadow over the Defense Department and for that matter the rest of government as to what would happen, and that’s the damn last thing I need,” Panetta said in a speech at the Center for a New American Security on Nov. 20.

With the election over, Washington has turned its attention to “the unfinished business of Congress,” in particular “how to avoid sending us off the fiscal cliff, how to prevent sequestration from happening, and the impact that that would have, not just on the Defense, but the domestic discretionary budget as well,” he said.

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“And for our purposes, hopefully they will also take the time to pass the Defense authorization bill in order to be able to set some important policy guidance that we need as we go into this next year,” Panetta said.

“The hope is that obviously these issues can be resolved before the Congress adjourns, and obviously, we are all hopeful that the leadership will be able to come together to find a way to resolve these issues,” the Defense secretary said.

Panetta said making tough decisions are part of the game, but he has faith that Congress can do it.

“These are tough decisions. I’ve been there. I know how tough they are, but they can do it. They can do it. It’ll take some risk, but that’s part of the game is that you have to take risks in order to do the right thing, and I hope they do that,” he added.