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Panetta Says Budget Decisions to Be Finalized in ‘Coming Weeks’

Leon Panetta

The Defense Department could wrap up its internal discussions on cutting $260 billion from its budget over the next five years “in the coming weeks,” Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Thursday.

More than $450 billion is to be cut from the defense budget over the next decade and the Pentagon has established a working group to assess the cuts, according to a report from Defense News.

“This process… has to be strategy-driven,” Panetta said at a Pentagon briefing. “And it also has to be a team effort. My hope is that, you know, as we work through this, that we will put the entire leadership of the department, both military and civilian, in the same place so that we can finalize this effort within the coming weeks.”

Panetta also took aim again at cuts by sequestration, an additional $500 billion, if the deficit reduction supercommittee cannot agree on how to reduce the federal deficit by Thanksgiving. Panetta said that would mean cuts of more than 20 percent in every area, leading to a “hollow force.”

“A hollow military doesn’t happen by accident,” Panetta said. “It comes from poor stewardship and poor leadership. I guess my message to the Congress is that it must show the necessary leadership by doing the job that they’ve been asked to do.”

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