Outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Wednesday blasted Congress for even toying with the idea of sequestration, calling the across-the-board defense budget cuts “legislative madness.” Speaking to students at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., on Feb 6, Panetta said sequestration would lead to the “most serious readiness crisis” for the US military in more than a decade. “There isn’t anybody I’ve talked to on Capitol Hill who doesn’t think this is crazy. No one whom I’ve talked to doesn’t think this is a dangerous tool to impact the country,” said Panetta. Sequestration “guarantees that we hollow out the military,” he added. Although Panetta said “we cannot allow this to happen”—an assertion Pentagon leaders have been making for more than a year now—he said the Defense Department has “already begun an all-out effort to plan for how to operate under such a scenario.” However, he added, “it’s all also very clear that there are no good options.” Unless Congress can reach an agreement, sequestration will take effect on March 1. The cuts, though the Pentagon will feel them most acutely, also will affect other federal departments, noted Panetta. “It’s about a number of other programs that support our quality of life in this country. And, our quality of life is important to our national security,” he said. (DOD report by Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.) (Panetta transcript)
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.