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Remarks by Secretary Panetta at the Naval Post Graduate School, Monterey, Calif.

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta
August 23, 2011

            ADM. DANIEL OLIVER:  Thank you very much.  I know you didn’t come to see me.  (Laughter.)  But we’re very delighted -- this is a great honor for the Naval Postgraduate School to have a couple of very distinguished guests here.  My job is to introduce the first one and he will introduce our -- the second and our guest speaker for this morning. 

            The Honorable Sam Farr is our congressman from the 17th district of California.  He has been in the House of Representatives in Congress since 1993, and he is a strong advocate of the mission of the Naval Postgraduate School, of men and women in uniform, strategically positioned on the Appropriations Committee, and has been a great, great supporter of the school and an advocate of everything that we do here and all of those that come out of it.  He is a fifth generation Californian, graduated from Carmel High School and Willamette University in Oregon.  He spent two years in the Peace Corps in Colombia, South America, and is fluent in Spanish. 

            It’s wonderful, Congressman Farr, to have you with us today.  Thank you so much. 

            Please join me in a warm welcome for the Honorable Sam Farr.  (Applause.)

            REP. SAM FARR (D-CA):  Thank you very much, Admiral Oliver, Admiral Moss (ph), Mayor Chuck Della Sala, and other distinguished guests and, most of all, students. 

            What a proud day for us here in Monterey to welcome home our native son.  He left Monterey to be a congressman and then left Congress to go work for the Clinton administration, opened up a seat that the only way you can get elected -- you can get into the House of Representatives is by an election, special election in 1993.  I got elected to succeed him and have been reelected ever since.  And it’s a great pleasure for me to welcome back our native son, Leon Edward Panetta.

            He’s the 23rd secretary of defense, sworn in this year on July 1st.  And before joining the Department of Defense, Leon served as the director of Central Intelligence Agency from February 2009 until June of 2011.  Mr. Panetta led the agency and managed human intelligence and open source collection programs on behalf of the intelligence community.  He took the leading in finding and removing Osama bin Laden from world terrorism. 

            Secretary Panetta has dedicated much of his life to public service, as well as his wife.  Before joining CIA, he spent 10 years co-directing with his wife, Sylvia, the Leon and Sylvia Panetta Institute of Public Policy here at our own California State University at Monterey Bay.  The institute is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit center which seeks to instill in young men and women the virtues and values of public service. 

            In March of 2006, he was chosen to be a member of the Iraq Study Committee, a bipartisan committee established at the urging of Congress to conduct an independent assessment of the war in Iraq. 

            From July 1994 to January 1997, Mr. Panetta served as chief of staff to President Bill Clinton.  Prior to that, he was director of the Office of Management and Budget, a position that built on his years of service as chair of the House Budget Committee.  He represented the 16th congressional district, which became the 17th congressional district, which will next year become the 20th congressional district, for 16 years, rising to chair of the House Budget Committee during his last final four years in Congress -- positions himself very well for these future budget decisions that our nation has to make.

            Early in his career, Leon served as a legislative assistant to Senator Thomas Kuchel of California, and as special assistant to the secretary of Health and Education and welfare director of the U.S. Office of Civil Rights and executive assistant to Mayor John Lindsey of New York.  He also spent five years in law practice here in Monterey. 

            He served as an Army intelligence officer from 1964 to 1966 and received the Army Commendation Medal.  He also spent five years in private law practice. 

            Leon holds a Bachelor of Arts degree and an LLD degree in law, both from the University of Santa Clara.  He was born on 28 June 1938 here in Monterey, where his Italian immigrant parents operated a restaurant.  Later, they purchased a farm in Carmel Valley, where both he and Sylvia now make their home.  The Panettas have three grown sons.  Two are lawyers.  One is a doctor.  And they have six grandchildren.  

            Please give a big, warm NPS welcome to our friend, our neighbor, our secretary of defense, Leon Panetta.  (Applause.)

            SECRETARY OF DEFENSE LEON PANETTA:  Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you very much.  Thank you, Sam.  Sam Farr has been a dear friend and someone that I’ve worked with a long time in a number of positions and was first on the board of supervisors and served in the assembly.  Obviously now serves in the Congress.  And he has been someone who has been incredibly important to this area in protecting the military establishments that are here.  And I thank him for the support that he has provided the military and his continuing support for the mission of the Navy Postgraduate School, Defense Language Institute, and the other installations here on the peninsula.  He’s been a true supporter.

            Dan Oliver, great to be able to see you again and have a chance to visit here. 

            This is a special place for me and in many ways it’s coming home.  I am very proud of the Navy Postgraduate School, proud of its mission and proud of its dedication to protecting this country.  As I said, this is a special place, first of all because this is my home. 

            Monterey is where I was born and raised.  And I’ve had throughout my life a deep appreciation for the history of this wonderful location here, but more importantly a deep appreciation for the mission of the Postgraduate School. 

            I also in representing this area as congressman was very supportive of the school, its mission and the work that is so important to keeping this country on the cutting edge of the future.  In addition, not only as congressman, but as OMB director and then chief of staff to the president worked very hard when threats came to the school through the BRAC process -- not just once but a number of times -- and had the support of the local community, Mayor Della Sala and Mayor Dan Albert and a number of others who worked very hard to put together a coalition in support of this school and its importance to the defense mission. 

            This isn’t just important obviously for this community, but it is extremely important to the defense of this country.  We were successful in making clear how important the school was.  And when I came back actually to California, was appointed chairman of a base committee in California to continue to try to do everything possible to maintain the important bases here in this state. 

            But most importantly, most importantly, the reason that I’m honored to be here and have a chance to be with you is because of the very mission of this school.  And the mission is one of teaching advanced skills, teaching the kind of technological capabilities to our military leaders, to our civilian leaders so that they are better able to lead this country as we would confront those that threaten our peace and our security. 

            As secretary of defense, obviously every day I look at a myriad of challenges that face this country, a range of security challenges that come from a lot of different directions, and as a result require the kind of leaders who are knowledgeable, who are creative, who are strategic, who understand the steps that have to be taken if we’re to protect this country.  One of the great thrills I have each day is to work with Mike Mullen, who is the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who happens to be an NPS graduate from the class of ’85.  And he himself has called the Postgraduate School a national and international treasure.  And it is. 

            In many ways, it’s not just true for this school but it’s true for all of you.  Everywhere I go, in visiting the forces abroad, in visiting installations here, and for that matter when I was director of the CIA having a chance to visit all of our stations across the world, the first thing I did was to thank all of those who are serving for their public service.  And I do that to all of you.  I thank you for your willingness to serve this country. 

            The strength of our democracy at the core of what a free society is all about is the willingness of those who are part of this country to serve it, to give something back.  That was true for our forefathers.  It was true for the pioneers.  It’s true for the immigrants.  It’s true for the men and women who have served in uniform throughout the years, throughout our history, the willingness to give something back to this country, to serve this country, to try to serve future generations so that they too can enjoy the remarkable freedoms and liberties that are so precious to this country. 

            And, frankly, my story is the story of public service, 40 years of public service to this country.  And I began really as the son of immigrants.  As Sam said, I am the son of Italian immigrants who made their way to this country like millions of other immigrants in the early ’30s. 

            My father was the 13th in his family.  He had brothers who came over to this country, settled in different areas.  And when he came over, he had two brothers at the time.  One was living in Sheridan, Wyoming, and one was living here in California.  The older brother was in Sheridan.  So as is the tradition, he felt obligated to visit his older brother in Sheridan.  And he did.  My mother and I went up there and stayed with them.  They stayed through one winter in Sheridan, Wyoming.  (Laughter.)  My mother said it was time to visit his other brother in California -- (laughter) -- which thankfully ultimately brought him here to Monterey.  Thank God.  (Laughter.) 

            He came to Monterey and, as Sam mentioned, ran a restaurant in downtown Monterey during the war years.  And as you can imagine, that was a pretty rough location because this was a town where Fort Ord was the training base for those that were being trained for the next step, which was to go to war, either in the Pacific or Europe.  And so Monterey was kind of a last piece of civilization.  So it was -- Monterey was kind of rough in those days.  And I can remember -- my earliest recollections were washing glasses in the back of that restaurant.  My parents believed that child labor was a requirement.  (Laughter.) 

            So soon after the war, my father sold the restaurant and bought a place out in Carmel Valley, where we now live, planted a walnut orchard and, again, worked hard out there in the orchard moving irrigation pipes and doing hoeing. 

            There’s a great story that I tell because it makes a point.  When I was a boy -- and in those days my dad went around with a pole and hook and shook each of the branches in the walnut trees.  And my brother and I used be underneath collecting the walnuts.  When I got elected to Congress, my father said, you know, you’ve been well trained to go to Washington because you’ve been dodging nuts all your life.  (Laughter, applause.)  It’s pretty good training, pretty good training. 

            But most importantly, I used to ask my father why would you come all of that distance to this country -- no skills, no education, no money in their pocket.  Why would you travel all that way to come to a strange country?  And even though they came from a poor area in Italy, they at least had the comfort of family.  Why would you leave that to come to this country?  My father would say, both to my brother and I, the reason we did it is because we believed we could give our children a better life. 

            And in many ways, that is the American dream.  That dream of giving our children a better life is what has been at the heart and soul of what America is all about.  It’s what they wanted for their children.  It’s what we want for our children and, hopefully, what our children will want for their children -- to be able to give them a better life. 

            And in many ways, that dream is your dream.  Your dream, your mission, your duty is to make sure that we provide a safer and a better life for our children in the future.  And we do this at a time when we do face a number of important challenges that threaten this country. 

            We are today engaged in two wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Obviously, our hope is that for all of those, for all of those who served in those areas and continue to give their lives that we will do everything we have to do to prevail in those wars and to ensure that both Iraq and Afghanistan are stable governments that can govern and secure themselves for the future and ensure that they never become a safe haven for those who would attack those countries but more importantly attack our country. 

            So our hope is that as we begin draw downs in Iraq and draw downs in Afghanistan we do it in a way that ensures that these countries are stable, that they are secure, and that they build on the sacrifices that have been made, both by their people and by our men and women, so that they can become stable nations in key parts of the world for the future.

            In addition, as we all know from the headlines, we continue to be involved in a NATO mission in Libya.  And hopefully that is a mission that is beginning to draw to a close.  The opposition forces have obviously made significant gains, but the situation obviously remains very fluid.  We are continuing to monitor events there.  But as the president has said, in many ways the future of Libya is in the hands of the Libyans.  And we hope that they will decide that it is important to establish stability and important political reforms for the future after 40 years of Gadhafi. 

            One thing I am proud of is the mission that we have performed as a partner in NATO that we have, working with our NATO partners, obviously, and implementing the U.N. resolution that we are obligated to implement, we have protected civilians.  We’ve established a no-fly zone.  And we have worked with our NATO partners in going after kind of important support and assistance that was I think part of the key in being able to help the opposition forces there ultimately be able to succeed.  It’s a good indication the kind of partnership and alliances that we need to have for the future if we’re going to deal with the threats that we confront in today’s world. 

            In addition, we continue the war on terrorism, even though we have made significant progress in weakening al Qaeda.  As we approach the 10th anniversary of 9/11, we recognize that because of a number of efforts here and operations we have weakened al Qaeda’s leadership.  We have weakened their capability to be able to plan attacks in this country.  But they still remain a threat.  And now is the time to continue the pressure against them -- not to lift it, not to walk away from it, but to continue the pressure. 

            Proudest moment I had as director of the CIA was being able to work on the operation that took down Osama bin Laden.  It was an example of our intelligence and military communities working together to go after an important target and to succeed. 

            But the reality is that al Qaeda still continues to operate, particularly in what we call the “nodes,” places like Yemen and Somalia and North Africa.  And we must never stop until we have been able to ensure that they have no place to hide and that they no longer represent a threat to this country. 

            We continue to have to deal with the threats that emerge from what I would call rogue nations, places like Iran and North Korea that continue to try to develop a nuclear capability and to undermine and threaten stability in those areas of the world.  We must continue to do everything we can to ensure that those threats do not challenge stability in those very important parts of the world. 

            We now are dealing with cyber threats, another challenge that confronts us.  In many ways I’ve said and I believe this is the battlefield for the future.  We are now the target of literally hundreds of thousands of attacks every day.  The capability to do cyber attacks is growing throughout the world.  Countries like China, Iran, Russia, others are developing that capability.  And I truly believe that as that technology increases, as that capability increases, the ability to paralyze this country is very real -- to take down our power grid, to take down our financial systems, take down our government systems, to create the kind of paralysis that would indeed be comparable to a Pearl Harbor-type attack.  We have got to be ready not only to defend ourselves but to be offensive in being able to go after those that would threaten our country in the cyber arena.

            All of that combines with the situation in which we face rising powers throughout the world -- China, India, Brazil, not to mention the continuing focus on Russia.  Ensuring that we try everything we can to cooperate with these rising powers and to work with them, but to make sure at the same time that they do not threaten stability in the world, to be able to project our power, to be able to say to the world that we continue to be a force to be reckoned with.

            Now, all of this, all of the challenges I’ve just described come at a time when there are increasing budget constrictions here at home.  It’s pretty clear that we are going to face resource limitations that we’re going to have to deal with.  We’re a country that now has the largest deficit in our history, running about $1.4 trillion annual deficits, almost a $14 trillion national debt.  There is no question that we’re going to have take steps to discipline that budget and to put it on a glide path that restores discipline through to our fiscal arena.

            I am not one -- having worked on budgets for a good part of my career, I am not one who believes you have to choose between fiscal responsibility and national security.  I think we can implement fiscal discipline in a way that protects the national defense.  And that’s what we’re working to do. 

            Congress recently enacted as part of the debt ceiling increase a set of cuts on the discretionary side, cuts on defense roughly in the ballpark that Secretary Gates and President Obama had looked at as a possible target for savings in the defense arena.  So while the decisions will be tough -- these are not easy decisions to make -- I really do think that we have an opportunity to be able to do this in a way that protects our national defense for the future, that develops agile forces, forces that are easily deployable, forces that can counter the threats that we’re going to have to deal with in the future, weapons systems that can support that kind of quick deployability.

            In addition to that, we have to make sure that we always protect our troops and their families and that we never break faith with those that are willing to serve.  I think the opportunity is there.  Now working with the service chiefs, working with the secretaries, working with all of those in the department, we are beginning to focus on how can we get this done in a way that will make us better for the future, in a way that will protect the best military for the future, in a way that will protect our core security interests in the future, and in a way that will protect faith with those that serve.  All of that I believe is doable if we’re smart about it and we do it making the right decisions for the future. 

            But there is a greater danger out there.  There is a greater danger.  And the greater danger is that for some reason because of Congress’ inability to be able to develop the kind of deficit reduction proposals that they’re being asked to do, that they have fashioned what I’ve termed this doomsday mechanism of cuts across the board, the so-called sequester in which, if the committee fails to do its job, then what that will trigger is a sequester across the board, cuts across the board that could result in as much as $500 to $600 billion more in defense cuts, doubling the number of defense cuts that we’re now dealing with. 

            This is a moment when in many ways the leadership of our country is going to be tested more than it ever has.  If it’s serious about dealing with the deficit, serious about dealing with the deficit -- and I speak as someone who was involved in every major budget summit going back to the Reagan years.  I worked with President Reagan on deficit reduction.  I worked with President Bush on deficit reduction.  We spent three months out at Andrews Air Base working on a proposal to reduce the deficit.  And as OMB director for Bill Clinton did the same thing. 

            If you’re dealing with deficits in this federal budget, the reality is you cannot balance the budget just focusing on discretionary spending.  You can’t.  Discretionary spending makes up about a third of the federal budget.  Two-thirds of the federal budget is in mandatory programs.  So if you’re serious about reducing the deficit, you’ve got to focus on that two-thirds of the budget plus revenues.  Every deal I worked on in budget included, yes, discretionary caps, but it also included mandatory savings and it also included revenues.  So hopefully the committee that’s been assigned to deal with this will have the courage to be able to confront those issues if they’re serious about trying to reduce the deficit.

            But I have to make clear -- I have to make clear to the American people and to the leadership in Washington that if it fails to do that and it results in this sequester, even though the sequester is supposedly not to take effect until January of 2013.  The reality is that it will be devastating to the defense budget.  It will hollow out the force.  It will weaken our national defense.  It will undermine our ability to maintain our alliances throughout the world.  And, most importantly, it will break faith with the troops and their families. 

            And so this is a time not only when we confront the challenges that I described, not only when we confront the challenge of having to deal with smaller budgets, but we also confront the challenge of making sure that the American people understand that this is a point in time when we cannot afford to weaken our national defense, when we cannot afford to be able to provide that safer and better life for our children. 

            Your fight is clear.  Your fight is to get out there and continue to do your duty and continue to serve this country in the battlefields across the world.  And our duty, my duty is to fight to make sure that you’re protected so that you have the resources you need in order to do the job. 

            This is something I think that requires that all of us draw some inspiration from the most important assets we have, which are those that are out there putting their lives on the line.  The toughest part of this job as secretary of defense -- the toughest part of this job is that I have to do condolence letters to the families of those who have been killed in action. 

            And in line with that, just over the last few weeks that I’ve been secretary of defense, I’ve gone out to the war zones, looked the troops in the eye.  I’ve been to Bethesda and to Walter Reed and seen those who have been terribly wounded as a result of those wars.  I’ve been to Dover to greet the bodies of those who were killed in the helicopter crash in Afghanistan.  And I’ve been to Arlington. 

            The greatest inspiration to me has been that in greeting the families of those who have died in the service of their country there isn’t a family member that hasn’t come up to me and said, if you really care about what happened to my son, my daughter, my brother and my sister, my husband, my wife, if you really care, you will carry on the mission that they gave their life for.

            And so in many ways, the inspiration to carry on this fight rests with remembering those that have made that ultimate sacrifice and committing ourselves to carry on that fight that they were involved in.

            Sam will know this and some of my friends here know this, but there’s a great story I often tell of the rabbi and the priest who decided they would get to know each other a little better.  So one evening they went to a boxing match thinking that if they went to events together they would talk, share each other’s religion and better understand each other and their faith.  So one evening they went to a boxing match.  And just before the bell rang, one of the boxers made the sign of the cross.  And the rabbi nudged the priest and said, what does that mean?  The priest said, it doesn’t mean a damn thing if he can’t fight.  (Laughter.) 

            My friends, we bless ourselves with the hope that everything is going to be fine in this country, but very frankly it doesn’t mean a damn thing if we’re not willing to fight for it.  You by your presence here make very clear that you are willing to fight for that American dream that brought my parents to this country, for the dream of making sure that our children have a safer and better life for the future, for the dream of making sure that we always keep in our hearts the sacrifices of those who gave their lives for this country, but most of all, that we always fight to ensure a strong government of, by, and for all people. 

            Thanks very much for having me here.  (Applause.)

            MR.:  Mr. Secretary, on behalf of the students, faculty and staff here at the Naval Postgraduate School, I want to thank you, sir, for taking the time to come speak with us today.  And we are honored to have you here to share your thoughts with us.  And as a token of our appreciation, I’d like to present you with the NPS Centennial Book commemorating the first 100 years of our institution as well as the penning of Herrmann Hall here, sir.

            SEC. PANETTA:  Oh, great.  Thanks very much.  I really appreciate it.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you. 

            I think we’ve got a few minutes.  Sit down.  We’ve got a few minutes for some questions if there are those that want to ask some questions.  Yes.

            Q:  Sir, my name is Lieutenant Cirillo (ph) in the Business School.  If the $600 billion in cuts are enacted, and many of us have seen the Defense Business Board’s recommendation for retirement, what is your stance on the military’s retirement, sir?  (Laughter, applause.)

            SEC. PANETTA:  Why the hell did I know I was going to get that question?  (Laughter.)  As you know, Secretary Gates asked the board to take a look at the retirement system.  And they’ve done that and they have some recommendations that they’ve made.  They actually haven’t completed the report, so I haven’t really looked at their final report.  And obviously no decisions have been made. 

            But let me just make clear to you that one of the commitments I’ve made is not to break faith with the troops or their families.  And those that have been deployed a number of times have been deployed on the basis that ultimately they knew that they had a commitment with regards to their retirement.  So if anything like that were ever to be thought of seriously, I wouldn’t do it without grandfathering those that are presently in the service and making sure that they get the benefits that they’re entitled to under the present time.

            Having said that, you know -- look, I think when you’re dealing with these kinds of budget constrictions, I think it’s important to look at all areas.  Every time I’ve done a budget summit, my approach to it has been to say, let’s look at every area to see whether or not we can make the important reforms, et cetera.  There is something to be said obviously for young people that do come into the service and decide after four years to leave that right now, under the present system, they get nothing.  So there is some thought that maybe they’re entitled to some retirement to be able to move those funds to other systems.  I think that’s worth looking at. 

            But to respond to the question that I was asked, my view is we ought not to break faith with those that serve, that serve now and that if there were any changes that were to be made in the future, it would not have happen without grandfathering their benefits. 

            Q:  Good morning, Mr. Secretary.  I’m David Henderson, an economist, an economics professor also in the Graduate School of Business and Public Policy.  Ohio State University Professor John Mueller stated in a recent article in Foreign Affairs, quote, “An al Qaeda computer seized in Afghanistan in 2001 indicated that the group’s budget for research and weapons of mass destruction, almost all of it focused on primitive chemical weapons work, was some $2,000 to $4,000.” 

            In your previous job, you yourself pointed out that there are fewer than two dozen key operatives left in al Qaeda.  Given our huge budget deficit that you referred to, when do you say enough is enough?  Let’s end those wars because the costs are so much higher than the hypothetical small benefits?

            SEC. PANETTA:  The answer to that question is you end those wars when those individuals that have threatened to attack this country no longer are there to threaten this country.  We have an obligation coming out of 9/11 to defend this country.  That’s what we’re here to do.  That’s what we’re all about is to make sure that al Qaeda and their militant affiliates never again attack this country. 

            And let me make clear that while we have made progress against al Qaeda and we have weakened their leadership, they still continue to plan attacks in this country.  In the bin Laden compound, the intelligence that was gathered there indicated that bin Laden even there was continuing to focus on what could be done on the anniversary of 9/11 to see whether or not any potential for renewed attacks in this country might exist.  That’s what they do.  That’s what they plan.  That’s what they’re committed to. 

            And I think we have to make sure that they never have that opportunity to again attack this country.  And that means we continue to put pressure on them in the FATA.  We continue to go after them in Yemen.  We continue to go after them in Somalia and elsewhere to make sure that they never have the opportunity again to attack this country.  I can’t give you a timeline as to when that happens.  But I know one thing: we should never give up until we have defeated their intent to try to attack this country.

            Q:  Thank you.  (Applause.)

            Q:  Sir, Chief Warrant Officer Blalak (ph), U.S. Army, attending the cost management course here.  Right now we’ve had tremendous success in the fight against Libya supporting our NATO allies.  That has come to about $1 billion that we have spent.  With the seized funds that the U.S. has from Gadhafi, can we recoup that money?  (Laughter.)

            SEC. PANETTA:  Well, there’s obviously been some discussion as to how those funds will be used.  Right now I think the main focus is to try to see what we can do to provide funds to the TNC and the opposition forces and, hopefully, the transitional government there so that they will have the funds in order to do the rebuilding, in order to establish the systems that are important to stability in that country.  We still haven’t quite gotten through the various requirements that are out there in the United Nations and elsewhere that have put various restrictions on the funds that are out there. 

            But I think the first order of business obviously will be to try to provide those funds to the new government there so that they can do what they have to do to make sure that they establish a stable government in Libya. 

            Beyond that, you know, I don’t think -- I think the discussion as to whether or not NATO ought to be in some way reimbursed, I think that’s still a subject that has not really been approached with regards to the Libyans at this point.

            Q:  Sir, Lieutenant Colonel Glenn Hodges (sp) in the modeling virtual environments and simulations curriculum here at NPS.  On the 8th of March, the secretary of the Army stated to the House Armed Services Committee that modeling and simulation is absolutely essential to the Army.  Recent resource decisions have impacted several of the Army’s training programs that are enabled by modeling and simulation.  Sir, what is your position on the value of modeling and simulation to the Department of Defense and what plans do you have to protect the resourcing that supports it?

            SEC. PANETTA:  Again, I depend a great deal on the advice that I received from the services as to what areas should be focused on.  You know, in this job, my view is that we have to operate as a team.  I can’t protect the defense of this country without having the best advice that I can get.  And I view the best advice that I get from the service chiefs who know what the hell they’re talking about and have been involved in the battle and also have been involved in training aspects of what works and what doesn’t work. 

            So without going into particulars, I’m still awaiting actually their recommendations with regards to some of the areas that they want to focus on.  As I said, no decisions have been made.  We basically have asked for a review -- a comprehensive review -- looking at all areas.  But what I’m depending right now is to make sure that the service chiefs give me their best recommendations in a way -- I mean, my guidance to them is do it in a way that protects our defense for the future. 

            We have today the strongest military force in the history of the world.  We are the strongest military force not only in the world but I believe in the history of the world.  And I think it’s important for us to maintain that strength for the future.  So don’t tell me anything that’s going to undermine our strength or our weakness for the future.  Does that mean there aren’t going to be tough decisions that have to be made?  Yes, there are going to be tough decisions.  But I want to make sure we don’t do anything, particularly with regards to training, that undermines the ability to have the best trained, best equipped force that this country needs to have if we’re going to confront the threats I talked about.

            Q:  Thank you.

            Q:  Mr. Secretary, D.D. Jones (sp) with academic and media services.  What are the plans within DOD to address the Navy’s lack of a high speed, high maneuverability air security fighter to match the capabilities of aircraft being developed and produced by the Russian Federation and other potential threat nations?

            SEC. PANETTA:  Well, as you know, the effort we’re going through now is on the Joint Strike Fighter.  And the idea was obviously to develop a strike fighter plane that would be one that each of the services could use.  And, as you know, in the development of that plane we’ve gone through a number of transitions because, obviously, the Navy needs to make modifications on that plane for purposes of taking it off a carrier.  The Marines need to make modifications on that plane in order for them to have a STOVAL capability.  And so there have been modifications.  We’re beginning to test the plane now.  It’s in the test phase. 

            I think that plane will give us an important capability for the future.  You know, from everyone I’ve talked to, they seem very pleased that it does in fact provide the capabilities that we need.  But it’s going to take a lot of work.  It’s still going through the test phase.  We’ll learn a lot from the test phase.  But I think it’s an investment that we ought to maintain for the future.

            One more question.

            Q:  Hello, sir.  My name is Rachel Goshorn.  I’m a professor in the Engineering School and our C4I chair.  My question revolves around the concern for not having enough intelligence analysts or experts in the future to predict and prevent terror threats, particularly when sensor systems are becoming so cheap and deployed everywhere and we won’t have enough bandwidth to communicate this and our small satellites, unmanned systems won’t have enough power.  So my question is, from your intelligence expertise, what is your view on automation in the future and automating intelligence analysts at our DOD systems?  (Laughter.)

            SEC. PANETTA:  I’m still a believer that you still need to have two feet and a brain to be able to do the kind of intelligence that we need.  I mean, there are areas, obviously, where we can make use of automation, where we can make use of new technologies.  But very frankly, I have seen no substitute for having an asset on the ground being able to give you the intelligence that you need. 

            And, you know, now we have a myriad -- obviously, we’ve got a myriad of intelligence capabilities, both in terms of technology, SIGINT, imagery, various satellites that provide additional elements to our intelligence.  But when I have to know what’s taking place with regards to a specific target or a specific area, the ability to have assets that are trained to go into that area and be able to see it, be able to report on it, is extremely important to our ability to have good intelligence. 

            So if you’re going to put together the best intelligence -- and that was my responsibility as director of the CIA was to give the president the very best intelligence we could, to give him that intelligence depends on a lot of contributing factors that help you again be able to affirm the intelligence that you’re getting. 

            Look, when we first got the track to bin Laden’s compound, the key on that was the ability to track these couriers that at one time worked for Osama bin Laden, to track those couriers to the compound.  We were able to do that using, obviously, a lot of new technology to be able to get that done.  But, in addition, we used a lot of other intelligence to be able to continue to look at that compound, to continue to determine whether or not in fact bin Laden was there. 

            Let me tell you something.  You know, we were never able to confirm the fact that Bin Laden was there.  And there were a lot of different opinions as to whether or not the intelligence showed bin Laden being there that ranged a great deal depending on one’s background.  But, in the end, as director of the CIA I looked at that and I said, we have the best intelligence we’ve had since Tora Bora on where this guy may be.  And the result of that intelligence came from a number of different areas that helped to build that case. 

            But in the end, I’ve got to tell you something and I think it’s something you all know.  In this business, in your business, ultimately you have to take risks.  You have to take risks based on the best information you have, but you have to take risks if you want to get any damn thing done.  And so based on that the president of the United States made a very courageous decision to proceed with that effort, and it paid off.  But there are times when it doesn’t pay off.  There are times when you make mistakes. 

            But the important thing is to use every asset you have, every capability you have to build that intelligence.  That is what the president needs.  That’s what policymakers need in order to make the decision.  And, very frankly, my rule was as director of the CIA, whether you like to hear it or not, you’re going to hear what I know and you’re going to hear the truth.  And it’s based on that and ultimately the decisions have to be made. 

            But I do think that with regard specifically to your question, I think we need to develop a lot of different approaches to intelligence.  We’ve got to be willing to invest in new capabilities.  But in the end, what you need are well trained, language-capable analysts who know what the hell they’re looking at. 

            Okay.  Thank you.

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