Two weeks before the elections, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta waded into politics and rapped Congress across the knuckles for leaving "a great deal of critical work" on national security unfinished he said they must complete when they return to a lame-duck session in November.
"Congress is clearly on the clock," said Panetta, a former House member, demanding that in the 70 days left this year members of Congress avoid sequestration, pass a defense authorization and appropriations bills and a cybersecurity bill, and confirm the nominations of Gen. John Allen and Gen. Joseph Dunford to head NATO and the Afghanistan war.
"As I made clear this month, we really do need strong cybersecurity legislation," he said. Allen and Dunford are expected to have confirmation hearings this year. The House already passed its version of the defense authorization bill but the Senate is awaiting floor debate. That bill includes several highly controversial provisions, including rules governing the military detention of terrorism suspects and restrictions on the military's biofuel purchases.
"This is a full agenda," he warned. "It's one that requires Democrats and Republicans to work togehter. And after a tough national election, the American people I think will expect both parties to roll up their sleeves, work togehter to solve the problems facing the nation, and to protect our national security."