Panetta: DOD Will Help Nation Meet Fiscal Challenges

WASHINGTON, Aug. 3, 2011 — Though defense spend­ing must and will be part of the solu­tion to the nation­al finan­cial strug­gle, Defense Sec­re­tary Leon E. Panet­ta told the Defense Depart­ment work­force in a mes­sage today, bud­get reduc­tions must take sound strat­e­gy and pol­i­cy into account.

Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma signed a bill yes­ter­day rais­ing the nation’s debt ceil­ing and out­lin­ing spend­ing reduc­tions.

One of the key chal­lenges we face as a depart­ment [is] how to ensure that our mil­i­tary has every­thing it needs to pro­tect our nation­al secu­ri­ty at a time of con­sid­er­able fis­cal chal­lenge in our coun­try,” Panet­ta wrote.

The sec­re­tary said reduc­tions in defense spend­ing that will result from the leg­is­la­tion — $350 bil­lion over 10 years — are in line with what DOD lead­ers were antic­i­pat­ing. Defense lead­ers can imple­ment those reduc­tions while main­tain­ing the military’s excel­lence, the sec­re­tary wrote, adding that spend­ing choic­es must be based on sound strat­e­gy and pol­i­cy.

“As a depart­ment, we are ask­ing our­selves: What are the essen­tial mis­sions our mil­i­tary must do to pro­tect Amer­i­ca and our way of life? What are the risks of the strate­gic choic­es we make? And what are the finan­cial costs?” he wrote.

Across-the-board cuts have in the past result­ed in a force under­sized and under­fund­ed rel­a­tive to its respon­si­bil­i­ties, Panet­ta wrote. “I will do every­thing I can to ensure that fur­ther reduc­tions in defense spend­ing are not pur­sued in a hasty, ill-con­ceived way that would under­mine the military’s abil­i­ty to pro­tect Amer­i­ca and its vital inter­ests around the globe,” he added.

The debt ceil­ing agree­ment con­tains a mech­a­nism that will take effect if Con­gress fails to fur­ther reduce the deficit, Panet­ta not­ed.

If that hap­pens, it could trig­ger a round of dan­ger­ous across-the-board defense cuts that would do real dam­age to our secu­ri­ty, our troops and their fam­i­lies, and our abil­i­ty to pro­tect the nation,” he wrote. The poten­tial deep cut in defense spend­ing is not meant as pol­i­cy, he explained, but rather is designed to spur respon­si­ble, bal­anced spend­ing reduc­tion and avoid mis­guid­ed cuts.

I am aware that as Wash­ing­ton dis­cuss­es strat­e­gy and pol­i­cy, you and your fam­i­lies are dis­cussing the impli­ca­tions of the deci­sions that might result, on issues from the future of mil­i­tary pay, to ben­e­fits, retire­ment and health care,” Panet­ta wrote.

I promised in my first mes­sage as sec­re­tary that I will fight for you. That means I will fight for you and your fam­i­lies as we face these bud­get chal­lenges,” he added.

DOD owes the defense work­force and its fam­i­lies the sup­port they have earned on the bat­tle­field and the home front, he wrote. At the same time, he not­ed, aging equip­ment dat­ing to the defense buildup of the 1980s must be replaced.

Going for­ward, we must ensure that the mil­i­tary gets the effec­tive and afford­able weapons it needs by redou­bling our efforts to enforce pro­cure­ment dis­ci­pline,” he wrote.

DOD must also con­tin­ue to tack­le waste­ful and duplica­tive spend­ing, and over­head staffing, he wrote. “We must be account­able to the Amer­i­can peo­ple for what we spend, where we spend it, and with what result,” he added.

Panet­ta empha­sized that the mil­i­tary has suc­ceed­ed in every mis­sion it has been assigned, from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars to human­i­tar­i­an assis­tance and dis­as­ter relief at home and abroad.

You — the men and women of the mil­i­tary — have nev­er said ‘I can’t do it.’ Nor have the civil­ians who sup­port you. That is the mil­i­tary ethos — to salute and press on,” he wrote.

The ethos of the nation’s lead­ers and pol­i­cy mak­ers must be to ensure that the mis­sions assigned to the mil­i­tary meet crit­i­cal nation­al secu­ri­ty pri­or­i­ties, he wrote.

It is our respon­si­bil­i­ty to deter­mine those pri­or­i­ties and to ensure that you will always have the train­ing and equip­ment to suc­ceed in those mis­sions,” the sec­re­tary wrote.

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