Panetta: ‘This Is No Way to Govern the United States of America’

By Melanie Arter | February 6, 2013 | 4:31 PM EST

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (AP Photo)

( – Outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned Wednesday of the consequences that sequestration would have on the U.S. military and thus the greater economy, saying, “This is no way to govern.”

“This is no way to govern the United States of America. This budgetary crisis creates uncertainty. It creates doubt, and most importantly, from my point of view, it undermines the men and women in uniform who are willing to put their lives on the line in order to protect this country,” Panetta said to an audience of students and faculty at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

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“It puts at risk our fundamental mission of protecting the American people, and worst of all, as I said, it is a self-made crisis. Basic fact of life is that the Department of Defense can’t do its job without the partnership of the Congress. We cannot do it without Republicans and Democrats who are willing to work with us to protect our national security,” Panetta added.

Sequester refers to automatic across-the-board cuts to federal programs, including the Pentagon budget, part of the drive to cut the deficit.

Panetta warned that 46,000 jobs are already at risk, and the Defense Department may have to furlough as many as 800,000 civilians for up to 22 days, he said.

“They could face a 20 percent cut in their salary. You don’t think that’s gonna impact on our economy? You don’t think that’s going to impact on jobs? You don’t think that’s gonna impact on our ability to recover from the recession?” Panetta asked.

The Army will have to cut back on training and maintenance, “putting about two-thirds of our active brigade combat teams outside Afghanistan at a reduced readiness level,” the Defense secretary said.

“We gotta cut back on their training. We’re gonna have to cut back on the ability to support the troops who are not in the war zone. So what happens is, we put more stress on those who are in the war zone,” Panetta added.

“This is not a game. This is reality. These steps would seriously damage the fragile American economy, and they would degrade our ability to respond to crisis, precisely at a time of rising instability across the globe – North Africa to the Straits of Hormuz, from Syria to North Korea,” Panetta said.