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“It’s one thing to talk about [fiscal 2012] and then to express concerns about something that may or may not happen in four or five years, but I have a crisis on my doorstep,” Mr. Gates said.

“Frankly, that’s how you hollow out a military even in wartime. It means … fewer flying hours, fewer steaming days, cuts in training for home-stationed ground forces, cuts in maintenance and so on.”

Mr. Gates said congressional inaction would effectively force the Pentagon to operate with $23 billion less than Mr. Obama requested.

BAILOUT

GM withdraws federal loan bid

General Motors, in another sign of its progress since a government-led bankruptcy, said Thursday it is withdrawing its application for $14.4 billion in federal loans it had sought to help build more fuel-efficient cars.

GM, which has posted three straight profitable financial quarters since its 2009 bankruptcy, said it no longer needed the loans because the company’s cash position has improved. GM applied for the loans in 2009 to modernize plants to build fuel-efficient vehicles.

“This decision is based on our confidence in GM’s overall progress and strong, global business performance,” said Chris Liddell, GM vice chairman and chief financial officer. Mr. Liddell said withdrawing the application was “consistent with our goal to carry minimal debt on our balance sheet.”

The $25 billion low-interest loan program is administered by the Energy Department. It was created by a 2007 law to help car companies retool older factories to build more environmentally friendly cars.

Separately, GM said it would explore ways to increase production of the Chevrolet Volt rechargeable electric car. GM’s vice president of global design, Ed Welburn, said at the Washington Auto Show that GM would also accelerate its distribution of the Volt, making it available to dealers in 50 states by the end of the year.

LABOR RELATIONS

States rebuff federal threat

Four states are vowing to fight the federal government in a bid to preserve state measures that guarantee workers the right to secret ballots in union elections.

Attorneys general from Arizona, South Carolina, South Dakota and Utah signed a letter Thursday pledging to defend changes to their state constitutions approved by voters on Nov. 2.

“These state laws protect long-existing federal rights and we will vigorously defend any legal attack upon them,” the attorneys general said in a letter to the National Labor Relations Board.

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