By Jim Kouri
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said over the weekend that the United States military will remain the world’s most powerful despite President Barack Obama’s budget cuts. Panetta claims that in order to confront threats that the U.S. faces as a world leader must remain the strongest.
Speaking to a crowd of military service members, civilians and local leaders at a town hall meeting held at the Naval air base in Patuxent River, Maryland, Panetta praised the U.S. military for achieving significant successes in fighting the al-Qaeda terror organization, rendering it unable to plan for the types of terror attacks witnessed on September 11, 2001.
“With the withdrawal from Iraq at the end of last year, the U.S. military has also made steady progress in transitioning to Afghan control and security in Afghanistan,” Panetta said.
However, Panetta warned against complacency, citing that the U.S. is still facing threats from many sides.
“We’re still fighting a war in Afghanistan. We’re facing threats from North Korea. We’re facing threats from Iran. We continue to face threats from the proliferation of nuclear weapons, weapons of mass destruction,” he said.
In addition, Panetta addressed threats from “rising powers” in Asia, continuing turmoil in the Middle East, and in the cyber world where “the battlefields of the future could very well be in [cyberspace].”
“So at a time when we’re at that turning point, at a time when we’re facing the budget challenges that we’re facing, we still have to be strong to confront the threats that we face in the world,” he said.
After Obama and the U.S. Congress mandated a reduction of $487 billion in the defense budget over the next decade, Panetta said he saw it as an “opportunity to shape the defense system we need for the future.”
“Number one, we are and have to remain, the strongest military in the world,” he said. “We are not going to back off from our position of being the strongest military. If we’re going to confront those threats, if we’re going to be a world leader, we have got to maintain our military power.”
Panetta was adamant about not hollowing out the force, which he described as a mistake “we’ve made in the past.” He added that he will look at every budget area where savings, efficiencies and balance can be achieved.