GEORGE F. WILL :: At the PENTAGON, the specter of a sequester – The Washington Post
By George F. Will,
September 16, 2011
It must take some getting used to. Leon Panetta, the secretary of defense, knows the Pentagon is under 24-hour cyber siege. There constantly are thousands of what he calls “exploitive” cyber probes from nations “pulsing the system,” trying to devise tools to disrupt the control systems without which complex societies such as ours cannot function. Panetta, a seasoned Washingtonian who laughs easily and a temperate Californian who frets about the San Francisco Giants’ bats, is not given to hyperbole. But he says any cyber attack that “crippled our [electricity] grid or took down our financial system would make Pearl Harbor and 9/11 combined look mild” in terms of social disruption.
Although a cyber attack “is moving up” on his list of his worries, it ranks only “third or fourth,” behind North Korea’s and Iran’s nuclear weapons programs; what he calls terrorism “nodes” in places such as Yemen, Somalia and North Africa; and wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. In Iraq, the mission of the remnant of U.S. forces — the number 3,000 has been bruited — will, Panetta says, include counterterrorism actions “working with the Iraqis.” Which leaves a lot of room for danger.
Panetta’s most immediate worry, however, is visible from the windows of his office overlooking the Potomac — Capitol Hill, where the supercommittee created by August’s debt-ceiling agreement is sitting. By Thanksgiving, either it will agree to do something important — reduce the next decade’s debt by at least $1.2 trillion — or its disagreements will trigger something important: a sequester.