By Barbara Starr (CNN)-The troops usually are happy to see Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. Smiles and handshakes all around.
But days before he leaves office Panetta has bad news, he's proposing less money in their paycheck next year.
Panetta, a savvy Washington operative in budget politics-- is leaving it to Congress to figure out how not to cut pay and keep thousands of defense employees on the job.
We will furlough as many as 800,000 DOD civilians around the country for up to 22 days. They could face a 20 percent cut in their salary. You don't think that's going to impact on our economy?
But the recommendation to slow the military pay raise will put troops in the middle of that political fight between Congress and the President over spending.
He should be looking out for soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines that he sends into harm's way.
Panetta is proposing just a 1 percent increase in troop pay for 2014.
According to internal Pentagon calculations it should have been at least 1.7 percent-- which was the increase this year.
It may not be a huge deduction but its badly needed cash for strapped military families.
For a junior enlisted service member with two years in uniform... The basic pay is about 1500 a month.
Panetta's recommendation would mean about $130 less pay than planned.
One official familiar with the plan says quote "its a pay cut" no matter how its explained.
Panetta, in his last major speech, did not hold back his concern about congress failing to reach a deal on spending.
This is not a game! This is reality. These steps would seriously damage the fragile American economy and they would degrade our ability to respond to crises precisely at a time of rising instability across the globe.
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