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Fiscal Responsibilities: Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Wednesday the $350 billion in cuts to defense spending over the next decade that were included in the Budget Control Act of 2011, the nation's new debt ceiling legislation, can be implemented without affecting military operations or readiness. However, he cautioned that further reductions, if executed in a "hasty" or "ill-conceived way," would indeed "undermine the military's ability" to function. "The debt ceiling agreement contains a sequester mechanism that would take effect if Congress fails to enact further deficit reduction. If that happens, it could trigger a round of dangerous across-the-board defense cuts that would do real damage to our security, our troops and their families, and our ability to protect the nation," wrote Panetta in a statement to military members and their families. "This potential deep cut in defense spending is not meant as policy. Rather, it is designed to be unpalatable to spur responsible, balanced deficit reduction and avoid misguided cuts to our security." (AFPS report by Karen Parrish)