WASHINGTON - US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta delayed deployment of an aircraft carrier strike group to the Middle East due to budget uncertainty on Wednesday, hours after warning that financial concerns were a threat to US security.
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The outgoing Pentagon chief delayed the deployment of the USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier and the USS Gettysburg guided missile cruiser, which were due to leave Virginia later this week, because of uncertainty over the department's finances, Pentagon spokesman George Little said.
"Facing budget uncertainty ... the US Navy made this request to the secretary and he approved," Little said in a statement. "This prudent decision enables the US Navy to maintain these ships to deploy on short notice in the event they are needed to respond to national security contingencies."
The decision leaves the United States with one aircraft carrier in the tense Gulf region, the same force level it has had since December. Little said the U.S. presence was "robust," with a mix of ships and warplanes that could respond to any contingencies.