We're less than a month away from the latest deadline for the so-called sequester to take place (March 1), and on Meet The Press on Sunday outgoing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said such massive budget cuts would be cataclysmic for our military preparedness.
"Let me tell you, if sequester happens, it is going to badly damage the readiness of the United States of America," Panetta told NBC News' Chuck Todd Sunday morning of the potential for up to $500 billion in budget cuts that would begin next month.
"We have the most powerful military force on the face of the earth right now. It is important in terms of providing stability and peace in the world. If sequester goes into effect, and we have to go into the kind of cuts that will go right at readiness, right at maintenance, right at training, we are going to weaken the United States and make it much more difficult for us to respond to the crises in the world."
Todd then aired a brief excerpt during the third and final of last fall's presidential debates when President Obama declared flatly that the sequester would not happen.
But Obama hasn't said much about sequester, which would also require a commensurate amount of cuts to domestic programs. That factor is something that delights some Republicans, who say it may be the only way to force the Obama administration to make such spending cuts.
Last week on MTP, House Budget Chair Paul Ryan said he thinks the sequester will happen, and didn't seem too overly concerned about it.
When Todd asked if Panetta assumed the sequester would happen, the DefSec said it shouldn't, but he has been preparing for it since January.
And he got a bit emotional in denouncing the fact that it could happen. "Why in God's name would members of Congress, elected by the American people, take a step that would damage our national defense, but more importantly, undermine our support for our men and women in uniform. Why would you do that?"
Last summer three Republican Senators - John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Kelly Ayotte visited Tampa to warn that sequestration could adversely affect MacDill Air Force Base in South Tampa.
General Martin Dempsey, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also sounded rather alarmist, said the country would become less safe, and not just because of sequestration, but also operating under a budget gimmick called a Continuing Resolution. "We have to absorb $52 billion..in the last half of the year."
When asked his thoughts about the rough day that his chosen successor, former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel had on Thursday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Panetta said it appeared that GOP Senators had their "political knives" out for Hagel, but refused to criticize his lackluster performance.