Panetta: Congress Must Look at Whole Federal Budget for Cuts

WASHINGTON, Aug. 16, 2011 — Bud­get con­cerns and the need for the Defense Depart­ment to work with the State Depart­ment dom­i­nat­ed a dis­cus­sion at the Nation­al Defense Uni­ver­si­ty here today with the Cab­i­net mem­bers who lead those depart­ments.

Sec­re­tary of State Hillary Rod­ham Clin­ton and Defense Sec­re­tary Leon E. Panet­ta talked with stu­dents at the Nation­al War Col­lege and the Indus­tri­al Col­lege of the Armed Forces at Fort McNair. Frank Ses­no, a for­mer CNN cor­re­spon­dent who now works at the George Wash­ing­ton Uni­ver­si­ty, mod­er­at­ed the discussion. 

Both State and Defense face bud­get cuts as a result of the debt-ceil­ing deal worked out Aug. 2. Panet­ta said the cuts will affect nation­al secu­ri­ty, and that he and Clin­ton want the Amer­i­can peo­ple to “rec­og­nize how impor­tant it is that we main­tain our nation­al secu­ri­ty and that we be strong.” 

But the defense sec­re­tary acknowl­edged that the fis­cal out­look presents a challenge. 

“We rec­og­nize that we’re in a resource lim­i­ta­tion here, and that we got to deal we’ve those chal­lenges,” Panet­ta said. “But I don’t think you have to choose between our nation­al secu­ri­ty and fis­cal respon­si­bil­i­ty. And I want the coun­try to know that we can get this done, but we have to do it in a way that pro­tects our nation­al defense and pro­tects our nation­al security.” 

The Defense Depart­ment can han­dle the $350 bil­lion in sav­ings over the next 10 years that is man­dat­ed in the agree­ment, the sec­re­tary said. But if mem­bers of Con­gress can­not agree on fur­ther reduc­tions, anoth­er $500 bil­lion in funds would be sequestered from the department. 

“If they do the sequester, this kind of mas­sive cut across the board which would lit­er­al­ly dou­ble the num­ber of cuts that we’re con­fronting,” he said. “That would have dev­as­tat­ing effects on our nation­al defense. It would have dev­as­tat­ing effects on, cer­tain­ly, the State Department.” 

Con­gress must look beyond the “dis­cre­tionary spend­ing” in the fed­er­al bud­get — most of which is in Pen­ta­gon fund­ing — to address the nation’s deficit, Panet­ta said. 

“If you’re seri­ous about deal­ing with bud­get deficits, you can’t just keep going back to the dis­cre­tionary part of the bud­get,” he said. 

An across-the-board cut of that mag­ni­tude would hol­low out the force and weak­en America’s abil­i­ty to respond to threats, Panet­ta said. 

“More impor­tant­ly,” he added, “it would break faith with the troops and with their fam­i­lies. And a vol­un­teer [force] is absolute­ly essen­tial to our nation­al defense. Any kind of cut like that would lit­er­al­ly under­cut our abil­i­ty to put togeth­er the kind of strong nation­al defense we have today.” 

Ses­no asked Panet­ta about a report call­ing for changes to the mil­i­tary retire­ment sys­tem. A task group for the Defense Bud­get Board stud­ied the issue and will sub­mit a report lat­er this month, Panet­ta said. He stressed that no deci­sions have been made with regard to retirement. 

“It’s the kind of thing you have to con­sid­er, in terms of retire­ment reforms in the broad form,” he said. “But you have to do it … in a way that does­n’t break faith … with our troops and with their fam­i­lies. If you’re going to do some­thing like this, you’ve got to think very seri­ous­ly about ‘grand­fa­ther­ing,’ in order to pro­tect the ben­e­fits that are there.” 

Panet­ta vowed to pro­tect the ben­e­fit. “But at the same time, you know, you’ve got to look at every­thing on the table,” he added. 

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

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →