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Napolitano: Sequester cuts will make US more vulnerable to terrorist attack

Allowing the $85 billion sequester to go forward will make the United States more vulnerable to a terrorist attack, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano warned Monday.

Napolitano added that the blunt nature of the $85 billion in automatic spending cuts set for March 1 “makes it awfully, awfully tough” to mitigate threats faced by the nation.

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“I don't think we can maintain the same level of security at all places around the country with sequester compared to without sequester,” said Napolitano, whose agency includes the Transportation Security Administration.

The cuts will also hit the Pentagon, the Department of Justice and other national security spending, and the administration has warned the spending reductions will hurt the military’s readiness.

“I think if you look at the combination of the effect on [the Department of Homeland Security], the Department of Justice and the Department of Defense, we are having real impacts on the robustness of our defensive posture,” Napolitano told reporters at the White House on Monday.


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Napolitano’s attendance at the White House briefing was the latest part of a White House effort to pressure Congress into passing a deal that would prevent the sequester.

Earlier on Monday, President Obama urged the nation's governors, gathered in Washington for their annual meeting, to lobby their congressional delegations to reach a compromise deal.

In her remarks, Napolitano said the cuts would reduce Coast Guard patrols by 25 percent, reduce the number of beds for immigration detentions and increase wait times at ports.

“When you slow down the inspection of containers by up to five days … that translates into lots and lots of jobs, good paying jobs, and those are going to be impacted,” Napolitano said.

Republicans have said the White House is attempting to frighten the American people over the sequester with scare tactics.

"My advice to the [president is] stop the campaigning, stop sending out your cabinet secretaries to scare the American people,” Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said Sunday on “Meet the Press.”

Jindal said Obama should “roll up your sleeves and do the hard work of governing.”

Asked about Jindal’s comments, Napolitano denied the administration was employing scare tactics.

“I'm not here to scare people; I'm here to inform and let people begin to plan,” Napolitano said.

White House press secretary Jay Carney would not say if Obama will meet with Congressional leaders to discuss the sequester this week.

But he vowed to “continue to engage with the Congress this week.”

The White House is demanding that a sequester replacement bill include some tax increases, something Republicans have refused. Carney indicated that he doesn't expect Republicans to move much in their position.

“The simple fact is what Republican leaders are saying in public reflects the positions that they have,” he said.

The impasse and divide over taxes suggests the cuts will begin on March 1, with both sides hoping public pressure will build on the other to budge from their position.

Amie Parnes contributed to this story.