WASHINGTON, July 7, 2011 — Though he is committed to cutting the Defense Department budget as part of the overall reduction in the federal deficit, U.S.security and strategic needs must drive the effort, President Barack Obama said yesterday in his first Twitter town hall meeting.
Obama said he conducted the meeting to find out what the public thinks about how to reduce the federal deficit, what costs should be cut and which investments should be kept. Responding to suggestions for cuts in the defense budget, the president said that is not an easy task.
“We can’t simply lop off 25 percent off the defense budget overnight,” he said. “We have to think about all the obligations we have to our troops who are in the field, and making sure they’re properly equipped and safe.” The need to replace outdated military equipment is another budget consideration, the president added.
“We’ve ended the war in Iraq, our combat mission there, and all our troops are slated to be out by the end of this year,” Obama said. And as Afghan forces take more responsibility for their country’s security, he added, U.S. forces will draw down there as well. But drawing down forces and beginning a new phase in Afghanistan must be done “fairly gradually,” he said.
Obama said that while decisions to cut defense spending will be tough, a reduction requires a balanced approach, as with any government program, to shrink the overall federal budget.
“Those who say that we can’t cut military at all haven’t spent a lot of time looking at military budgets,” he added.
However, the president said, the reductions must take place with the nation’s security in mind.
“One of the things that we have to do is make sure that we do it in a thoughtful way that’s guided by our security and our strategic needs,” he said. “And I think we can accomplish that.”
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)