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Panetta: DOD Will Help Nation Meet Fiscal Challenges

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 3, 2011 – Though defense spending must and will be part of the solution to the national financial struggle, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta told the Defense Department workforce in a message today, budget reductions must take sound strategy and policy into account.

President Barack Obama signed a bill yesterday raising the nation’s debt ceiling and outlining spending reductions.

“One of the key challenges we face as a department [is] how to ensure that our military has everything it needs to protect our national security at a time of considerable fiscal challenge in our country,” Panetta wrote.

The secretary said reductions in defense spending that will result from the legislation -- $350 billion over 10 years -- are in line with what DOD leaders were anticipating. Defense leaders can implement those reductions while maintaining the military’s excellence, the secretary wrote, adding that spending choices must be based on sound strategy and policy.

“As a department, we are asking ourselves: What are the essential missions our military must do to protect America and our way of life? What are the risks of the strategic choices we make? And what are the financial costs?” he wrote.

Across-the-board cuts have in the past resulted in a force undersized and underfunded relative to its responsibilities, Panetta wrote. “I will do everything I can to ensure that further reductions in defense spending are not pursued in a hasty, ill-conceived way that would undermine the military’s ability to protect America and its vital interests around the globe,” he added.

The debt ceiling agreement contains a mechanism that will take effect if Congress fails to further reduce the deficit, Panetta noted.

“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,” he wrote. The potential deep cut in defense spending is not meant as policy, he explained, but rather is designed to spur responsible, balanced spending reduction and avoid misguided cuts.

“I am aware that as Washington discusses strategy and policy, you and your families are discussing the implications of the decisions that might result, on issues from the future of military pay, to benefits, retirement and health care,” Panetta wrote.

“I promised in my first message as secretary that I will fight for you. That means I will fight for you and your families as we face these budget challenges,” he added.

DOD owes the defense workforce and its families the support they have earned on the battlefield and the home front, he wrote. At the same time, he noted, aging equipment dating to the defense buildup of the 1980s must be replaced.

“Going forward, we must ensure that the military gets the effective and affordable weapons it needs by redoubling our efforts to enforce procurement discipline,” he wrote.

DOD must also continue to tackle wasteful and duplicative spending, and overhead staffing, he wrote. “We must be accountable to the American people for what we spend, where we spend it, and with what result,” he added.

Panetta emphasized that the military has succeeded in every mission it has been assigned, from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief at home and abroad.

“You -- the men and women of the military -- have never said ‘I can’t do it.’ Nor have the civilians who support you. That is the military ethos -- to salute and press on,” he wrote.

The ethos of the nation’s leaders and policy makers must be to ensure that the missions assigned to the military meet critical national security priorities, he wrote.

“It is our responsibility to determine those priorities and to ensure that you will always have the training and equipment to succeed in those missions,” the secretary wrote.


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Leon E. Panetta

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Secretary’s Message


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The opinions expressed in the following comments do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Defense.

8/4/2011 4:33:17 AM
Military Retirement Benefit Plan (part 2) After doing a little research, all but 3 members of the Defense Business board served on active duty (as officers) and all are now vice presidents, CEO's and Presidents of very well to do companies whose personal problems i am sure do not include money. After spending more than 20 years of service in the military i can tell you that i do plan on getting some kind of job when I get out but companies are not exactly lining up to hire a middle aged man. Removing retirement pay at the end of service will adversely affect the current force of senior enlisted positions. Knowing that retirement will not start until 60 or 65 years of age will cause many to leave now while they are still able to find a decent paying job. For someone hoping to use their promised military retirement benefit for their children’s education and mortgage payments after finally being able to settle down and buy a house, the proposed losses would be catastrophic.
- JAMES FOGEL, Afghanistan

8/4/2011 4:29:10 AM
Military Retirement Benefit Change (part 1) After reading the proposals of the Defense Business Board I was dumbfounded. I am an active duty Marine currently serving in Afghanistan, and a copy of the proposal came to me via e-mail from a friend back home. The most disturbing portion of this proposal was that retirement benefits would not be available till the age of 60 or 65. The report compares military pay and benefits as being equal or above civilian pay. Rightly so, I cannot tell you how many times I have been away from my family, worked 10-15 hour days and have had to ask my wife to make up for a father who has been removed from household or fatherly responsibilities due to deployments or training. Most military families just barely get by on their monthly budget, saving money for their children’s education or retirement is unlikely.
- JAMES FOGEL, Afghanistan

8/3/2011 6:32:17 PM
I would just like to add that the ROI measure should be considers when looking at procurement and R&D. The better the ROI (return on investment) expected by something the more I would be willing to back it even if it meant cutting the budget elsewhere. in short I hope you can ID the best ROI items to invest in for the various mission sets. You only have so much room or resources to alot, so please make the best of it!
- Keith "verong" Willis, leicester nc

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