Defense cuts jeopardize NATO’s effectiveness, Panetta warns

NATO may already be "stretched too thin"

From Adrian Croft, Reuters:  European Defense cuts and U.S. budget gridlock are jeopardizing NATO’s effectiveness, outgoing U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned on Friday.

Leaving his last NATO ministerial meeting in Brussels, Panetta joined those warning of the effects of deep Defense cuts in many Western countries and said it would be an "irresponsible act of political dysfunction" if the U.S. Congress permitted sweeping across-the-board Defense cuts to take place.

Many NATO governments have responded to economic crisis and budget pressures by slashing Defense spending, creating a growing gulf between U.S. and European military capabilities.

Some $46 billion in U.S. budget cuts are scheduled to take effect from March 1 that would slash nearly every U.S. military program or activity unless Congress acts to avert them. . . .

Panetta said that if the budget cuts happened, "it could impact not only our readiness but frankly the role that we would play with regards to the readiness of NATO as well."

"There’s no question that in the current budget environment, with deep cuts in European Defense spending and the kind of political gridlock that we are seeing in the United States right now with regards to our own budget, (it) is putting at risk our ability to effectively act together," he told a news conference.

"As I prepare to step down as secretary of defense, I do fear that the alliance will soon be – if it is not already – stretched too thin," he said.  (photo: NATO)

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