Defense Secretary Leon Panetta repeated a warning on Tuesday about the effect that potentially deep cuts to defense spending included in the recent debt-ceiling deal could have on national security.
The debt ceiling deal cuts defense spending by $350 billion over 10 years, an amount in line with what the Pentagon was expecting. But if the Congressional "super committee" tasked with proposing at least $1.5 trillion in additional overall budget cuts fails, or if Congress rejects its recommendations, additional spending cuts will automatically kick in across the board — including an additional $500 billion in defense cuts.
"This kind of massive cut across the board — which would literally double the number of cuts that we're confronting — that would have devastating effects on our national defense; it would have devastating effects on certainly the State Department," Panetta said, according to the Associated Press, echoing comments he made earlier this month.
Panetta's comments Tuesday came during a joint appearance with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in front of a military audience at the National Defense University.
For her part, Clinton said that the political battle in Washington over budget cuts has the potential to hurt the State Department as well, the AP reports.
"It does cast a pall over our ability to project the kind of security interests that are in America's interests," she said, adding that "[t]his is not about the Defense Department or the State Department ... This is about the United States of America. And we need to have a responsible conversation about how we are going to prepare ourselves for the future."
According to National Journal, Panetta, a former director of the Office of Management and Budget, said balancing the budget would require tax increases and changes to entitlement programs like Social Security.
"If you're serious about dealing with budget deficits, you can't just keep coming back to the discretionary parts of the budget," Panetta said.
And according to ABC News, the Defense Secretary also said that if the additional defense cuts are triggered, it would break faith with troops and their families and "literally undercut our ability to put together the kind of strong national defense we have today."
On Sunday, the AP reported that the so-called "doomsday" defense cuts loomed large for the 12 members of the "super committee." Both Democrats and Republicans on the committee represent states where large defense contractors do business, and where the $500 million in automatic cuts could translate to layoffs and lost tax revenue. The committee has until November 23 to come up with its recommendations.