Congress "did a stupid thing" in risking the $50 billion in reductions that would kick in next January
ABOARD THE USS PELELIU – Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told Marines and sailors on Friday that Congress would be irresponsible if it doesn't act to prevent drastic military budget cuts.
In a visit to this amphibious assault ship off the Southern California coast, he also said Afghanistan is making progress against the Taliban but Iran remains a potential threat to the U.S.
A budget agreement reached last August calls for defense cuts of $487 billion over a decade, a reflection of the drawdown of two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the pressure to reduce the nation's deficit.
The failure of Congress' so-called "supercommittee" to come up with at least $1.2 trillion in savings means automatic cuts of more than $1 trillion next January to defense and domestic programs.
Congress "did a stupid thing" in risking the $50 billion in reductions that would kick in next January, Panetta told hundreds of Marines and sailors. "What they essentially did is put a gun to their heads and the heads of the country," he said.
Answering questions from service members and journalists, Panetta also said the military had made significant gains last year in Afghanistan, where the U.S. is winding down its combat role.
Afghan forces are doing their job in the country and the U.S. strategy of handing over security to them is working, the secretary said.
"We can't let anything, anything undermine that strategy," he said. "Ultimately, it's going to be up to them to (be responsible for) securing their country."