In a message Wednesday to all DOD personnel, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta embraced the spending reductions called for under this week’s agreement to raise the debt ceiling, reaffirming the Pentagon’s stance that the department can contribute to the country’s effort to reduce its debt without jeopardizing national security.
“As part of the nation’s efforts to get its finances in order, defense spending will be — and I believe it must be — part of the solution,” Panetta said.
The spending reductions called for under the debt ceiling agreement — estimated by the White House to reach $350 billion over 10 years — are “in line” with what DOD’s civilian and military leaders were anticipating, he reassured employees.
To meet the targets, “Spending choices must be based on sound strategy and policy,” he stressed. The department’s review now under way of America’s missions, capabilities, and role in a changing world will assess the risks and costs of various strategic tradeoffs presented to policymakers.
“Achieving savings based on sound national security policy will serve our nation’s interests, and will also prove more enforceable and sustainable over the long-term,” Panetta said.
He railed, however, against the possibility of automatic spending cuts kicking in if Congress fails to enact a second round of reductions by Dec. 23. “If that happens, it could trigger a round of dangerous across-the-board defense cuts that would do real damage to our security, our troops and their families, and our ability to protect the nation,” Panetta said.
Automatic cuts of $1.2 trillion over 10 years to the federal government could result in an additional $50 billion to $60 billion to be extracted each year from the defense budget, and lead to furloughs, layoffs and program disruptions, reported the American Forces Press Service.
To head off this “unpalatable” prospect, Panetta, who was sworn in one month ago as the 23rd secretary of defense, pledged to assist the White House and congressional leaders “to make the common-sense cuts needed to avoid this sequester mechanism.”
The nation faces tough choices as it seeks to balance its fiscal health with its security, compelling the department to “do what’s right for our nation now and for its future,” Panetta said in closing. “By better aligning our resources with our priorities, this department can lead the way in moving towards a more disciplined defense budget,” he stated.