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McKeon Urges Action To Avoid Military Cuts

Buck McKeonRep. Howard "Buck" McKeon (R-Santa Clarita), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, responded yesterday to a letter from the Joint Chiefs of Staff warning of the devastating impact on the U.S. military if sequestration becomes a reality.

In his statement, Congressman McKeon wrote, "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 said he hopes the letter from the nation's top military leaders "serves as wake up call" to the White House and Congress.

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Sequestration is an across-the-board budget cutting trigger mechanism formulated by the White House and Congress during the 2011 debt ceiling standoff. It's purpose was to force congressional leaders to agree to budget cuts that would lower the nation's annual federal deficits. But congress and the White House have yet to agree on a package of cuts that would supercede sequestration, which is set to go into effect on March 1.

"Should this looming readiness crisis be left unaddressed, we will have to ground aircraft, return ships to port, and stop driving combat vehicles in training," the seven four-star generals wrote in what's been dubbed the "28 star letter," adding that the budget crisis could force them to decrease troop training by nearly half of current planning, leaving the military ill-prepared for future combat missions.

Outgoing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta is also concerned. Last week he told reporters that the threat of drastic spending cuts that would be triggered if sequestration becomes a reality, coupled with the lack of a 2013 defense budget, has made for "a perfect storm of budget uncertainty."

"I only wish the service chiefs' warning had come sooner," said McKeon. "For well over a year we have seen this perfect storm brewing."

"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," said McKeon. "Sequestration was conceived and created in the White House with the ultimate agreement of Congress. The solution will also take agreement from Congress and the Commander-in-Chief," McKeon said.

*MSNBC News contributed to this article.