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)