Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs George Little provided the following readout:
“Today Secretary Panetta met with Italian Defense Minister Giampaolo Di Paola at the Pentagon to discuss a variety of mutual defense interests including the upcoming NATO Summit, Afghanistan, and the Arab Spring. Secretary Panetta reaffirmed the strong U.S.-Italian bilateral defense relationship and lauded Italy as a trusted partner and ally.
“Secretary Panetta thanked Italy for its contributions to the NATO mission in Afghanistan noting the casualties Italy has suffered to defeat al Qaeda and prevent Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven for terrorists.
“Secretary Panetta reiterated the United States commitment to developing the Joint Strike Fighter and the technology advancements both nations will receive as a result of fielding this 5th generation fighter. Secretary Panetta noted that the STOVL jet has recently come off probation after catching up to the other variants’ testing milestones. Secretary Panetta looks forward to seeing Minister Di Paola in Chicago next month.”