In what was likely their last joint press briefing before the Nov. 6 elections, Panetta and Dempsey presented a wish list of what they want from the upcoming lame duck session of Congress after the election, with the main focus on avoiding sequestration that would devastate defense budgets and planning.
“When Congress returns to town after the election, there’s a great deal of critical work that needs to be done,” Panetta said.
Number one on the agenda is avoiding the mandatory cuts on Jan. 2 under sequestration that could add another $500 billion in defense cuts — $55 billion next year alone – over the next 10 years on top of $487 billion in cuts already underway, Panetta said.
Pulling back from the “fiscal cliff” will “require Democrats and Republicans to work together,” Panetta said.
“I don’t know what I’m gonna’ get for 2013, much less 2014,” Panetta said, leaving him at a loss for planning the department’s future. “For me to put a strategy in place, I have to have some kind of stability,” Panetta said.
Panetta said he also requested the lame duck session pass a defense authorization bill and legislation to strengthen cyber security defenses.
He also called on the Senate to approve the nominations of Marine Gen. John Allen as the new head NATO commander, and Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford as the commander of international forces in Afghanistan.