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Pentagon Chief Warns He Won't Accept Extra Spending Cuts

U.S.Defense Secretary Leon Panetta

U.S.Defense Secretary Leon Panetta

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has warned he won't accept large military cutbacks under a debt deal, saying the move would weaken the United States faced with rising powers.

He held his first formal news conference since taking charge of the Pentagon a month ago. Panetta said that, "God willing," the process of reducing the U.S. debt would not trigger sweeping cuts under which the Pentagon could lose another $600 billion.

He said that such cuts "would do real damage to our security, our troops and their families and our military's ability to protect the nation."

Defense spending, which has nearly doubled since the September 11 attacks a decade ago, accounts for 20 percent of the federal budget.

The United States spent some $700 billion last year on defense, far more than any other country. Meanwhile reports say that President Barack Obama today will propose a $120 million package of new tax credits for businesses that hire U.S. veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

compiled from agency reports