Panetta Calls for Europe, NATO Defense Investment

MUNICH, Feb. 4, 2012 — Defense Sec­re­tary Leon E. Panet­ta today called for Euro­pean nations to match the Unit­ed States’ vote of con­fi­dence in the transat­lantic part­ner­ship, through invest­ment in com­mon defense and com­mit­ment to a long-term solu­tion in Afghanistan.

Panet­ta and Sec­re­tary of State Hillary Rod­ham Clin­ton spoke before some 10 heads of state and 40 for­eign or defense min­is­ters attend­ing the 48th Munich Secu­ri­ty Con­fer­ence at the Bay­erisch­er Hof hotel here.

Panet­ta chal­lenged his Euro­pean coun­ter­parts to match the U.S. in main­tain­ing mil­i­tary capa­bil­i­ty in the face of bud­get con­straints.

“Like most nations on this con­ti­nent, Amer­i­ca faces a fis­cal cri­sis,” he not­ed.

America’s con­gres­sion­al­ly man­dat­ed $487 bil­lion cut in defense spend­ing over the next decade prompt­ed a strat­e­gy that will result in a small­er but increas­ing­ly capa­ble force, intent on emerg­ing chal­lenges in the cyber and space domains and focused on Asia and the Mid­dle East, with a robust glob­al pres­ence and response capa­bil­i­ty, the sec­re­tary said.

Panet­ta empha­sized NATO is one of the cen­tral alliances under­pin­ning the U.S. strat­e­gy.

“I believe that today’s strate­gic and fis­cal real­i­ties offer NATO the oppor­tu­ni­ty to build the alliance we need for the 21st cen­tu­ry … the core of an expand­ing net­work of part­ner­ships across the globe,” the sec­re­tary said.

The Unit­ed States offers con­crete proof of its com­mit­ment to Europe and NATO, Panet­ta said. As part of the phased approach to Euro­pean mis­sile defense, he said, the U.S. will sta­tion mis­siles in Roma­nia and Poland; deploy four cruis­ers to Rota, Spain, capa­ble of shoot­ing down bal­lis­tic mis­siles; and con­tribute major fund­ing for the Alliance Ground Sur­veil­lance sys­tem — con­sist­ing of five Glob­al Hawk intel­li­gence, sur­veil­lance and recon­nais­sance unmanned aer­i­al vehi­cles and ground-based con­trol equip­ment — agreed to this week dur­ing NATO defense min­is­ters meet­ings.

The Unit­ed States will also iden­ti­fy a brigade to serve as the nation’s land force con­tri­bu­tion to the NATO response force, the sec­re­tary said.

“The NRF was designed to be an agile, rapid­ly deploy­able, multi­na­tion­al force that can respond to crises when and where nec­es­sary,” Panet­ta not­ed. “The Unit­ed States has endorsed the NRF but has not made a tan­gi­ble con­tri­bu­tion due to the demands of the wars — until now.”

A U.S. Army bat­tal­ion will rotate twice a year to Europe for train­ing, Panet­ta said, while two Army heavy brigades will be removed from Euro­pean bas­ing. Still, the U.S. Army pres­ence in Europe will remain the largest any­where in the world out­side the Unit­ed States, he added.

Army forces in Europe will decrease from rough­ly 47,000 sol­diers to 37,000, defense offi­cials said, with a total U.S. assigned troop strength in Europe of around 80,000, includ­ing Air Force, Navy and Marine troops.

Panet­ta said the Unit­ed States would like to see Euro­pean nations invest sim­i­lar­ly in NATO’s cur­rent and future capa­bil­i­ties.

He cau­tioned against too-deep cuts under NATO’s “smart defense” ini­tia­tive, aimed at com­bin­ing nations’ mil­i­tary resources.

“Approach­es like ‘smart defense’ help us spend togeth­er sen­si­bly — but they can­not be an excuse to cut bud­gets fur­ther,” the sec­re­tary said.

As the Chica­go NATO sum­mit in May approach­es, he added, smart defense “should be part of a longer-term plan to invest in a NATO force for 2020 that is ful­ly trained and equipped to respond to any threat and defend our com­mon inter­ests.”

The 50 nations con­tribut­ing troops to the NATO-led Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force must main­tain their mutu­al com­mit­ment to long-term suc­cess in Afghanistan, to the end of secu­ri­ty tran­si­tion and beyond, Panet­ta said.

The inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty must pro­vide enough finan­cial sup­port to sus­tain Afghan army and police forces, he said.

Panet­ta said even as ISAF nations work to reduce the costs of Afghan forces over time, “we can­not short­change our com­mit­ment.”

The NATO alliance has proven its 21st-cen­tu­ry rel­e­vance over a decade of war, the sec­re­tary said.

Panet­ta quot­ed Pres­i­dent John F. Kennedy’s remarks at the first Munich con­fer­ence in 1962, high­light­ing Kennedy’s vision that one day the Unit­ed States could part­ner with a revi­tal­ized Europe, “on a basis of full equal­i­ty in all the great and bur­den­some tasks of build­ing and defend­ing a com­mu­ni­ty of free nations.”

That vision is “clos­er than ever” to real­iza­tion, the sec­re­tary said, but empha­sized NATO must remain pre­pared, as the Unit­ed States has com­mit­ted to remain­ing pre­pared, to deal with glob­al threats as they occur.

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