Senate Unanimously Confirms Panetta as Defense Secretary
Leon Panetta will become the next secretary of defense early next month after the Senate Tuesday voted unanimously to confirm him for the post. Current Defense Secretary Robert Gates is scheduled to retire June 30.
Prior to the Senate’s vote, Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) delivered a lengthy floor statement supporting Panetta and, at the same time, chronicling the challenges he would face as the next Pentagon chief.
After starting with the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the struggle against terrorism, Levin highlighted “the stress that 10 years of unbroken war has place on our Armed Forces. … Not only is our force stressed; so are our military families. We owe them our best efforts to reduce the number of deployments and increase the time between deployments.”
Another major issue the new secretary will have to address is balancing competing demands on the nation’s military with the need to reduce the nation’s debt.
“The defense budget will not, and should not, be exempt from cuts,” Levin said. “But Congress, working with the next secretary of defense, will need to scrub each defense program and expenditure and make the tough choices and tradeoffs between our warfighters’ requirements today and preparations for the threats of tomorrow.”
Fortunately, Panetta is “well suited” to the position’s demands and is the “right person” to help the military through fiscal challenges, he said. In addition to Panetta’s tenure as director of the Office of Management and Budget and chairman of the House Budget Committee, the current CIA director “has repeatedly demonstrated an ability to reach across party lines and work in a bipartisan spirit since entering public service 45 years ago,” Levin stated.