Deja Vu

If sequestration takes effect in March, the Defense Department will face a $35 billion shortfall in operating funds in the fiscal year, said outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Wednesday. During a speech to students at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., Panetta called on Congress to avoid partisan gridlock and make the difficult decisions that the nation requires. He cautioned that history is about to repeat itself, noting that he saw “the same attitude” among Democrats and Republicans years ago that led to the 1995 government shutdown. “Those that do not learn the . . . lessons of history are bound to repeat the mistakes,” he said. Panetta said he fears the “dangerous and callous attitude” developing amongst some in Congress, which could allow sequestration’s steep budget cuts to take effect “in order to blame the other party for the consequences.” Last time that attitude reigned, the American people were “badly hurt” and the political backlash was severe, asserted Panetta. Under sequestration the Defense Department may be forced to furlough as many as 800,000 civilians for up to 22 days, and they could face up to a 20-percent cut in salary, he said. “You don’t think that’s going to impact our economy?” he asked during his Feb. 6 address. “You don’t think that’s going to impact our ability to recover from the recession?” (Panetta transcript)