WASHINGTON - US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta demanded Congress take action after November elections to ensure stable funding for the US military and to break a partisan deadlock over the country’s budget deficit. “When Congress returns to town after the election, there is a great deal of critical work that needs to be done,” Panetta told a news conference. He said that “after a tough national election (on November 6), the American people, I think, will expect both parties to roll up their sleeves, work together to solve the problems facing the nation and to protect our national security.”

Panetta renewed his appeal for both Democrats and Republicans to strike a compromise that would avert dramatic spending cuts and tax increases mandated to take effect in January 2013 if the two parties fail to agree a deal to reduce the budget deficit and debt. He has warned the mandatory cuts would have a devastating effect on the US military and undermine a carefully planned strategy to reduce the growth of defence spending over the next decade. Under a law adopted last year, the Pentagon would be forced to slash an additional $500 billion from the defence budget in the absence of a compromise agreement among lawmakers. The administration already plans to reduce planned defence spending by $487 billion over the next decade. Panetta also called on lawmakers to approve a defence budget for the fiscal year 2013, which began on October 1st.