Panetta: U.S. Must Maintain Military Might

LOUISVILLE, Ky., March 1, 2012 — Suc­cess in Iraq and the draw­down in Afghanistan does not mean the U.S. mil­i­tary should be dis­man­tled, Defense Sec­re­tary Leon Panet­ta said here today.

Panet­ta spoke to more than 1,200 peo­ple at the McConnell Cen­ter on the cam­pus of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Louisville. He spoke of the need for pub­lic ser­vice and how that has played in the suc­cess­es and chal­lenges con­fronting the Defense Department. 

“We have begun to draw­down our forces and tran­si­tion to Afghan-led secu­ri­ty respon­si­bil­i­ty, and we have seen the lev­el of vio­lence go down,” the sec­re­tary said. “Our goal is that by the end of 2014, the Afghans will have the respon­si­bil­i­ty to gov­ern and secure themselves.” 

Panet­ta addressed the recent spate of killings of Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force troops by Afghans. “Let me be very clear,” he said. “The bru­tal attacks that we have seen on our troops in the last few days will not change or alter our deter­mi­na­tion to see this through.” 

The Unit­ed States has suc­cess­ful­ly weak­ened al-Qai­da, and dec­i­mat­ed its lead­er­ship, includ­ing killing Osama bin Laden. “We have demon­strat­ed that we will con­tin­ue to do every­thing pos­si­ble to pro­tect our cit­i­zens and our secu­ri­ty,” he said. 

The Unit­ed States remains indis­pen­si­ble to a sta­ble and secure world, the sec­re­tary stressed. The NATO oper­a­tions in sup­port of gov­ern­ment oppo­si­tion forces in Libya last year are an exam­ple, he said. 

“I had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to vis­it Tripoli last Decem­ber, and was deeply moved by the deter­mi­na­tion of the Libyan peo­ple to forge that bet­ter future for them­selves,” he said. 

Panet­ta said for­eign lead­ers – from old allies to new part­ners — con­sis­tent­ly tell him they want to increase their part­ner­ships with U.S. mil­i­tary forces. 

None of these goals can be achieved with­out U.S. mil­i­tary mem­bers who are “will­ing to serve their nation, will­ing to put their lives on the line, will­ing to die to pro­tect their coun­try,” he said. “We owe it to them to learn the lessons of the past and to build a bet­ter future for them and for their chil­dren. That means that as they return home, we must embrace them and sup­port them in com­mu­ni­ties like this across the coun­try – whether it’s by help­ing them pur­sue an edu­ca­tion at schools like Louisville, or pro­vid­ing assis­tance in find­ing a job or start­ing a business.” 

Main­tain­ing the mil­i­tary is a pri­or­i­ty, but one in dan­ger because of the nation­al debt, Panet­ta said. The Unit­ed States must main­tain the strongest mil­i­tary in the world, must main­tain effec­tive diplo­ma­cy and must build a strong econ­o­my, he said. 

“We are still a nation at war in Afghanistan; we still face the threat from ter­ror­ism – ter­ror­ists are still in Soma­lia, still in Yemen, still in North Africa and they still con­tin­ue to plot attacks on this coun­try,” he said. 

There still is a dan­ger­ous pro­lif­er­a­tion of lethal weapons and mate­ri­als, the sec­re­tary said. Iran and North Korea still threat­en glob­al sta­bil­i­ty. There still is con­tin­u­ing tur­moil and unrest in the Mid­dle East. Ris­ing pow­ers in Asia con­tin­ue to test inter­na­tion­al rela­tion­ships, and there are increas­ing cyber intru­sions and attacks, he said. 

“At the same time, we face an addi­tion­al threat to our nation­al secu­ri­ty which must also be con­front­ed, and that is long-term debt and high deficits,” he said. “As some­one who has spent much of my life in pub­lic ser­vice work­ing on fis­cal pol­i­cy, I believe that if the coun­try does­n’t con­trol and dis­ci­pline its bud­gets, it will inflict severe dam­age on our nation­al secu­ri­ty. It would deprive us of the very resources we require at the Depart­ment of Defense, and it would also hurt the qual­i­ty of life of the Amer­i­can peo­ple, some­thing that is equal­ly impor­tant to our broad­er nation­al security.” 

It is not a choice between nation­al secu­ri­ty and fis­cal respon­si­bil­i­ty, Panet­ta said. “We have to be will­ing to make dif­fi­cult deci­sions about how to reshape our defense strat­e­gy, how to main­tain our mil­i­tary strength for the future while also doing our part to reduce the deficit,” he said. 

The depart­ment has done that and is putting in place bud­gets that reduce defense spend­ing by $487 bil­lion over 10 years. 

The force will be small­er, but will be more agile and ready to deploy any­where in the world and win, all while build­ing part­ner­ships around the globe, Panet­ta said. “We are going to main­tain and even enhance our pres­ence in vital regions of the world like the Mid­dle East and the Asia-Pacif­ic region,” he said. 

“We must con­tin­ue to invest in new capa­bil­i­ties like cyber, and unmanned sys­tems, space and the con­tin­ued growth of spe­cial oper­a­tions forces,” Panet­ta said. He added that those capa­bil­i­ties will be cru­cial for a strong defense in the future, as will main­tain­ing a strong reserve com­po­nent and indus­tri­al base. 

Deficit reduc­tion can­not be done soley on the back of the Defense Depart­ment, the sec­re­tary said. “We have done our part,” he said. 

“Now it’s time for Con­gress to step up to the plate and make sure that we do not dev­as­tate our nation­al defense by allow­ing this mech­a­nism called sequester to go into effect,” he con­tin­ued. The addi­tion­al $500 bil­lion in auto­mat­ic, across-the-board defense cuts became law when Con­gress passed and the pres­i­dent signed the Deficit Reduc­tion Act last year. 

“We still need addi­tion­al deficit reduc­tion, but that must be made through a bal­anced deficit reduc­tion plan, which will involve mak­ing tough deci­sions not just on defense, but every oth­er area of spend­ing and rev­enues,” he said. 

The key to break­ing Wash­ing­ton grid­lock, Panet­ta said, “has to rest with peo­ple that are will­ing to exer­cise lead­er­ship, to find com­pro­mis­es, to make sac­ri­fices in order to find answers.” 

As pol­i­cy- and law-mak­ers con­front the debt cri­sis, “all of us in Wash­ing­ton need to demon­strate the same lead­er­ship that we count on from our troops in bat­tle,” the sec­re­tary said. “They make sac­ri­fices in order to achieve their mis­sion. Sure­ly those of us in Wash­ing­ton can make sac­ri­fices in order to gov­ern this nation.” 

Amer­i­cans have always been able to over­come cri­sis and adver­si­ty, Panet­ta said. “But we can’t just sit back and count on things to work out – it will take lead­er­ship and sac­ri­fice and will­ing­ness to fight to secure that dream for the future,” he said. 

“If we can sum­mon that spir­it of lead­er­ship, ser­vice and sac­ri­fice – and fight for what’s right – I believe that we can turn cri­sis into oppor­tu­ni­ty, and demon­strate to the world that this resilient Amer­i­can spir­it will endure for our chil­dren, their chil­dren, and beyond.” 

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 →