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NORFOLK -- Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta gave a stern warning during a speech before the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce in NorfolkFriday.

Panetta said Congress needs to take action to avoid sequestration and the massive defense cuts that come with the process.

He said the country will be 'jeopardized,' if Congress does not act to avoid the $1 trillion worth of military reductions which are currently scheduled to begin Jan. 2, 2013.

'Nobody wants this to happen, but they have got to come together to make the tough decisions in order to ensure that it doesn't happen,' he said.

Panetta continued, 'So we continue to bring pressure upon Congress to prevent these cuts. But more importantly, to deal with the larger fiscal cliff concern that the country is facing.'

Panetta also said Hampton Roads is a strategic national asset, and he wants 'to do everything I can to keep this area strong for the defense of the United Sates.'

Virginia Senator Mark Warner also spoke to the Chamber.

The Democrat said he is '85 percent sure' sequestration will be avoided.

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