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Former defense official urges Congress to avoid defense cuts

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A former top Pentagon official urged Congress Tuesday to find a way to avoid $600 billion in "draconian" defense cuts that would begin next year if Congress fails to cut $1.2 trillion from the federal budget.

"We should at least be looking at what kind of interim package that could be put together to kind of de-trigger [sequestration]," said Michele Flournoy, who served as under secretary of defense for policy until she resigned in February.

In an appearance at the American Enterprise Institute, she blamed "a deficit of political courage and a deficit of vision" for Congress' inability to reach an agreement on reducing the deficit last year, which led to the proposed defense cuts, or sequestration.

She said in putting together the defense strategy unveiled earlier this year, President Obama called military chiefs of each service several times to the White House to hash out a new strategy over many hours of heated debate.

"They took off their parochial hats and put on leadership hats," she said. "We ended up with a very smart strategy-driven and fiscally responsible blueprint ... that does sustain U.S. global leadership in the world."

Ms. Flournoy said the "political paralysis" besieging Congress is fueling conversations overseas about America's demise.

"The world is watching," she said.

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