Defense Secretary Leon Panetta turned up the heat on Congress Monday, warning that looming automatic budget cuts would undermine national security and set off a financial chain reaction from the hallways of the Pentagon, to the battlefields of Afghanistan, to civilian assembly lines.

The Pentagon already is digesting $450 billion of reductions over the next decade but now fears an additional $600 billion or more in cuts may be imminent if Congress cannot reach a deal on spending.

“The impacts of these cuts would be devastating for the department,” Panetta said in a letter to Sens. John McCain, R-Arizona, and Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina. He said that congressional failure to reach a budget agreement and the resulting so-called sequestration would trigger 23% across-the-board reductions and a halt to many new projects.

“Such a large cut, applied in this indiscriminate manner, would render most of our ship and construction projects unexecutable — you cannot buy three quarters of a ship or a building — and seriously damage other modernization efforts,” Panetta wrote to the senators.

Continue reading →