At a luncheon to mark Armed Forces Week in Colorado Springs, Gen. Chuck Jacoby called on lawmakers to keep national security in mind as they fight over the federal budget.
Jacoby, boss of U.S. Northern Command in Colorado Springs, praised local leaders for supporting troops but questioned, in the most diplomatic language, whether Congress has lost track of national security amid its budget battles.
"Security still must be on the list of competing priorities our government considers," he said at the Tuesday event.
The luncheon drew a crowd of more than 700 to The Broadmoor to honor enlisted troops in the Pikes Peak region. A soldier and two airmen were lauded at the event with Outstanding Enlisted awards.
Jacoby warned that budget woes have generated uncertainty that hurts military and civilian morale.
"It's a time when it is hard to make those smart investments our security requires," Jacoby said.
The Pentagon is working to cut $900 billion in spending over a decade. The Army plans to cut 80,000 troops in coming years and the Air Force is trimming its roster by 25,000 airmen.
The budget fighting, Jacoby said, could damage the working relations between services as they battle for their own piece of a shrinking pile of money.
"I personally think jointness is under a bit of pressure these days," the generally said using the Pentagon's term for interplay between services - "joint."
Northern Command, headquartered at Peterson Air Force Base, defends against attacks on North America and coordinates the Defense Department's response and domestic natural disasters.
Jacoby said the number of threats facing the nation is growing, with terrorists groups joining nations including North Korea, Russia and Iran on the list of potential foes.
"It's important to stay ahead of these threats no matter what the budget situation is," Jacoby told the crowd.
Jacoby took time to praise Colorado Springs and the troops who live there.
"You're the very best of our military team," he said.
The three winners of the enlisted awards got trophies from the general.
In the junior enlisted category, Spc. Elizabeth Harris won top honors. She's a communications expert with Fort Carson's 1st Brigade Combat Team who has helped single soldiers connect with recreation opportunities in Colorado Springs.
In the category of mid-grade sergeants, Air Force Staff Sgt. Brenda Sherrill of Northern Command got the nod. She works in administration and has also earned the prestigious Tuskegee Airmen Award.
In the category for senior sergeants, Schriever Air Force Base Master Sgt. Micah Small won the trophy. He's worked to help the 50th Space Wing and other Air Force Space Command units upgrade their security to counter terrorist threats.