(WASHINGTON) -- As calls to slash the federal budget grow louder, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned Thursday that hefty cuts in the nation’s military budget that go beyond the $450 billion already planned could have devastating consequences.
“I’m not kidding you. When you cut the budget by $450 billion, when you make the choices you have to make, there are some risks that are out there,” Panetta told members of the House Armed Services Committee.
But both Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey acknowledged that changes can be made to the way the Pentagon works. Panetta, who recently took over the reins from Robert Gates, said he is calling for the agency to cut in half the time it will take to achieve audit readiness for the Statement of Budgetary Resources.
With grassroots groups such as the Tea Party calling on lawmakers to cut spending, the defense budget has taken center stage in the 2012 debate. Most conservatives oppose hefty cuts to the military but not all are on the same page.
Thursday’s hearing got off to a rocky start as anti-war protestors continually disrupted Panetta’s opening testimony. Eight demonstrators, affiliated with anti-war group Code Pink, were arrested, according to U.S. Capitol Police.
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