Pentagon letter to Congress: Inaction has pushed us ‘to the brink of a crisis’

Leon Panetta
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta

If events in the Middle East and North Africa since Sept. 11 of last year have taught us anything, it’s that the world has become a very dangerous place for Americans and we can ill afford to let our guard down. Yet that is precisely what we’re doing.

The purpose of sequestration was to force Congress to address the nation’s mounting debt. It placed a guillotine blade over the military’s neck, and if Congress doesn’t act, the lever would be thrown and the blade would fall.

Congress hasn’t done its job, and a hand is resting on the lever, ready to act.

We can’t say we haven’t been warned.

Seeing the handwriting on the wall, Congress last year attempted to send out layoff notices to comply with the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification – or WARN — Act but was told to hold off by the administration.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta sent a warning to congressional leaders weeks ago, and got nothing in return.

The Washington Post reported Wednesday that the nation’s top military officials sent a joint letter to congressional leaders, advising them that their inaction has pushed the armed services “to the brink of a crisis.”

The Post article quoted the letter as saying “that troops in combat and those who are being treated for wounds will get the funds needed” but that remaining operations would be “severely compromised” if Congress fails to pass a 2013 military budget.

“We are on the brink of creating a hollow force,” said the letter, which was signed by the chiefs of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and National Guard, as well as the chairman and vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

A copy of the letter was provided to the Associated Press.

Aside from Congress’ failure to pass a budget is the even larger concern of sequestration, the automatic, across-the-board budgetary cuts that would take effect in March if Congress and the president are unable to pass budgetary reductions.

U.S. Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., said the dilemma should serve as a “wake-up call” to Congress and the White House.

“The condition of our armed forces is swiftly declining. And this is the first red flag on what could be a hazardous road for our national security,” McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said according to the Post.

We’ve been receiving wake-up calls for months, but Congress and the White House keep hitting the snooze button.

The preamble to the Constitution states that a fundamental reason for establishing “a more perfect union” is to “provide for the common defense.” We’re falling far short of that goal.

Read more at The Washington Post.


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