NATO is Crucial to U.S. Security, Panetta Tells Senators

WASHINGTON, June 13, 2012 — Defense Sec­re­tary Leon E. Panet­ta told a Sen­ate pan­el today the NATO alliance is cru­cial to Amer­i­can secu­ri­ty, but that NATO coun­tries need to spend more on defense.

“We can’t do it alone. We’ve got to be able to have alliances like NATO be able to work with us in con­fronting the many chal­lenges that we face in the world,” he said, dur­ing tes­ti­mo­ny on the 2013 defense bud­get request at the Sen­ate Appro­pri­a­tions sub­com­mit­tee on defense.

U.S. defense offi­cials have repeat­ed­ly raised con­cerns that some NATO nations are not invest­ing enough in their mil­i­taries. NATO’s goal is for mem­bers to spend rough­ly 2 per­cent of their gross domes­tic prod­uct on defense. Most have not met that goal. NATO nations must con­tin­ue devel­op­ing their capa­bil­i­ties and improv­ing their defense pos­tures, the sec­re­tary said.

At NATO’s sum­mit in Chica­go last month, lead­ers agreed to devel­op greater capa­bil­i­ties in mis­sile defense, in intel­li­gence, sur­veil­lance and recon­nais­sance, and in air-to-air refu­el­ing, among oth­er things.

But with Europe going through an eco­nom­ic down­turn, the Unit­ed States has con­cerns that many Euro­pean nations will “con­stant­ly go back to defense and seek fur­ther sav­ings there, which I think would be dan­ger­ous,” Panet­ta said.

This has already erod­ed some capa­bil­i­ties. Panet­ta said that dur­ing last year’s Libya oper­a­tion, the Unit­ed States pro­vid­ed rough­ly 60 per­cent of the sup­port, and that NATO offi­cials told him if the mis­sion were today, the Unit­ed States would have to pick up about 80 per­cent.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)