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November 10. 2012 11:55PM

Senators demand Petraeus testify


New Hampshire's two U.S. senators, Kelly Ayotte, left, and Jeanne Shaheen answer questions on a wide range of issues, from the "fiscal cliff" to Gen. David Petraeus' resignation during a luncheon of the New Hampshire chapter of Military Officers Association of America held at Manchester Country Club. Both serve on the Senate Armed Services Committee and said they work well together on issues affecting veterans and the military. (Shawne K. Wickham/Union Leader)

MANCHESTER - Both of New Hampshire's U.S. senators said Saturday that former CIA Director David Petraeus needs to testify before Congress about the CIA's actions before, during and after the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya.

The Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi killed four Americans, including two CIA employees.

U.S. readiness and response to the attack, and in particular the role of the CIA, have been questioned since the incident.

After Petraeus quit, it was announced that acting Director Mike Morell, who was deputy CIA director under Petraeus, would take his place and testify at a House Intelligence Committee hearing this week.

Both Sen. Kelly Ayotte and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen said the testimony of Morell, who was deputy director at the time of the attack, would be no substitute for hearing from the man who was in charge.

Ayotte suggested testimony from Petraeus is inevitable.

"I hope he will voluntarily appear, but Congress does have the power of subpoena," Ayotte said.

Shaheen agreed.

"I hope Gen. Petraeus will have to testify," she said.

The senators made their comments at a meeting of the New Hampshire chapter of the Military Officers Association of America, which includes active, reserve and retired commissioned officers in the seven uniformed services of the United States.

Each senator spoke of a sense of sadness at the way the public career of the retired, highly decorated four-star general came to an end.

"It is very sad that General Petraeus has behaved in a way that he did and that he has had to resign," Shaheen said. "I think the investigation will determine whether the national security has been affected."

"Obviously, this is incredibly sad and disappointing," Ayotte said, adding, "Nothing can take away from his service to our country."

Ayotte repeated her call for a joint special committee, consisting of members of the House and Senate, to pursue the Libya investigation.

"Rather than having several committees, we need to have one, joint, bipartisan committee look into this,'' Ayotte said.

Shaheen indicated she is not yet ready to embrace the idea of a joint special committee.

"I think the House will look at it and the Senate will look at it," Shaheen said. "We are going to be having a briefing in the Foreign Relations Committee, so I would like to know what the results of the investigation are; it's not clear to me that it has been completed."

Ayotte and Shaheen appeared at the Veterans Day weekend meeting to stress their bipartisan efforts to address military issues important to New Hampshire.

The senators pledged their continuing support to stationing a new Air Force refueling tanker at the Pease Air National Guard base. Locating the KC-46 tanker at Pease is seen as an important element in keeping the base open through future rounds of military base closings and realignments.

Ayotte said deploying the tanker to Pease would require the presence of an active-duty Air Force unit as well as a reserve component.

The KC-46, made by Boeing, is the newest generation of jumbo jet tankers capable of refueling planes in flight.

Shaheen and Ayotte have jointly written to the Defense Department urging that the refueling tankers be stationed at Pease, calling Pease the "optimal" location for the new tanker.

They also pledged to continue their bipartisan support for protecting the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard from reductions in military spending. Such cuts might be required if Congress and the President do not reach agreement on how to prevent widespread cuts looming under legislation scheduled to kick in with the New Year.

The budget cuts would be accompanied by automatic spending reductions resulting from an agreement Congress and President Obama reached on raising the country's debt ceiling in the summer of 2011.

Many of the retired military officers in attendance had questions for the senators about the effect of going over what has been dubbed the "fiscal cliff.'' Shaheen said the effects of failing to reach an acceptable compromise could be a devastating setback to the economy.

"If those cuts go into effect, we are going to lose a million jobs on the Defense side of the budget just next year and a million jobs on the domestic side of the budget," Shaheen said. "If we do that, it would put us back into recession; we cannot afford to do this."

Ayotte said a "blueprint already exists" for resolving the situation, developed by her predecessor in the Senate, Judd Gregg, who chaired the Senate Budget Committee.

Shaheen told the group there is one area of budget cutting she finds unacceptable.

"Everything ought to be on the table, with one exception," she said. "I would make sure Social Security is not cut because it has not contributed to the debt. We borrowed from Social Security to pay the debt."


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