While his confirmation seems all but assured, Panetta was clear on one point: The department’s effort to cut $400 billion in spending as part of overall deficit reduction measures would not endanger national defense, telling the committee the country doesn’t need to choose between strong fiscal discipline and a strong national defense.
“I don’t deny that there are going to be tough decisions that have to be made and tough choices that have to be made,” he said, according to an American Forces Press Service report. “But we owe it to our citizens to provide both strong fiscal discipline and a strong national defense.”
The challenge, he said, lies in designing budgets that eliminate wasteful and duplicative spending “while protecting those core elements that we absolutely need for our nation’s defense.”
However, one issue still unresolved is how much of the $400 billion security spending will actually come from DoD.
As Defense News reported, the security budget also includes funding for the State Department, the intelligence community, the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies, and Panetta said he was unsure how much would come specifically from the Pentagon.
Elsewhere, Panetta had high praise for predecessor Robert M. Gates, who, he said, “will be remembered as one of the greatest secretaries of defense in our nation’s history for the way he led the department during a time of war and for the crucial reforms that he’s tried to put in place in the way the Pentagon does business.”
As for those latter reforms — the efficiency initiatives launched last year — those are reforms “that I intend to carry on,” he added.