US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta expressed on Thursday his concern that the debt ceiling deal reached by Congress could affect the Pentagon budget and its ability to address security challenges.
“The reductions in the defense budget that were enacted as part of the debt-ceiling agreement are largely in line with the civilian and military leaders of this department — what we were anticipating and preparing to implement,” said Panetta in a press briefing at the Pentagon.
“Make no mistake about it: We will face some very tough challenges here as we try to meet those numbers, we have the opportunity to make those decisions based on sound and balanced strategy and policy and with the best advice that we can get from our service chiefs and from the service secretaries on how to proceed to build a strong defense not only now, but in the future,” he added.
Panetta, who completed the first month of his new position, noted that this approach “would be particularly harmful because we are a nation at war. We face a broad and growing range of security threats and challenges that our military must be prepared to confront, from terrorist networks to rogue nations that are making efforts to obtain a nuclear capability, to dealing with rising powers that always look at us to determine whether or not we will, in fact, maintain a strong defense here and throughout the world.”
“I recognize the resource limitations we face as a result of the size of the deficits that confront this country. But I also recognize the Department of Defense has responsibility to do its part in dealing with that, and we will do so,” he added.
While the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen said he was “gratified that an agreement was struck to raise the debt ceiling, and we believe the terms of that deal are, at least in the near term, reasonable and fair with respect to future cuts.
“The cuts required by this agreement over the next 10 years are certainly in keeping with the president’s previous budgetary direction, and we are already hard at work inside the comprehensive review process to find the requisite savings,” he concluded.