Barack Obama warns of risks over budget cut uncertainty

Barack obama

The budget-cutting mechanism, known as sequester, could affect everything from commercial flights to classrooms to meat inspections. Domestic and defense spending alike would be trimmed, leading to furloughs for hundreds of thousands of government workers and contractors.

The White House continued laying out in stark terms what the cuts would mean for government services, dispatching Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to warn of the implications for critical security functions.

"I don't think we can maintain the same level of security at all places around the country with sequester as without sequester,'' said Napolitano, adding that the impact would be "`like a rolling ball. It will keep growing.''

Napolitano focused in particular on the impact to the border, saying her agency would be forced to furlough 5,000 patrol agents. She tamped down the notion that budget cuts would make the nation more vulnerable to terrorism, but said the sequester would make it "awfully, awfully tough'' to minimize that risk.

Also Monday, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said visiting hours would be cut at all 398 national parks, just as they prepare for an influx of spring and summer visitors.

Elsewhere in the government, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said the cuts would harm the readiness of U.S. fighting forces. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said travelers could see delayed flights. And furloughed meat inspectors could leave plants idled.

Obama will seek to build public support for his call to offset the sequester with a combination of targeted cuts and tax revenues Tuesday when he travels to Newport News, Virginia, a community that would be impacted by the defense cuts.

Many of the nation's governors, who are gathered in Washington for their annual meeting, voiced frustration over the impending cuts, saying Washington's inability to strike a deal had created widespread uncertainty in the economy and hampered economic recovery in their states.

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