Department of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano warns that the U.S. can't maintain the same level of security with sequester cuts – House Majority Leader Eric Cantor later dismissed her warning as rhetoric.
With less than five days to go before the so-called sequester forces across-the-board federal budget cuts, members of the president’s cabinet warned how cuts to their departments would affect Americans’ everyday lives.
Monday’s distress signals from Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano came a day after two other cabinet leaders admonished Congress for some of the most high-profile consequences of the sequester, like cuts to education and air traffic control.
Salazar warned that the department would not be able to hire the seasonal workers needed to maintain national parks through the peak summer tourism season, meaning some favorite destinations might be off-limits.
“The public should be prepared for reduced hours and services not only in national parks but across all of the facilities which are managed by the Department of the Interior,” he said in a conference call with reporters. He added, “This will include reduced hours of operation for visitor centers, shorter seasons and closing of campgrounds, hiking trails and other recreational areas."
Like Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood Friday, Napolitano appeared in the White House Briefing Room, where she responded to the question of whether the country would be "less safe after the sequester."
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood discusses how the looming spending cuts will affect air travel.
"I don't think we can maintain the same level of security at all places around the country with sequester as without sequester," she said.
She stressed that cuts to her department would mean longer airport delays. “If you're traveling by air, you're going to have to start getting to the airport earlier. And if you're trying to make a connecting flight, you're going to have to make your arrangements to give you greater time with which to do that."
The former Arizona governor also warned of furloughed border protection officers, which would “affect our ability to keep out illegal migrants” and the government’s diminished ability to respond to national emergencies.
“Threats from terrorism and the need to respond and recover from natural disasters do not diminish because of budget cuts,” she said.
LaHood and Education Secretary Arne Duncan were dispatched to the Sunday talk shows to criticize Congress for the cuts scheduled to hit their departments.