Panetta: Pentagon Can Cut Budget Wisely

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WASHINGTON, Aug. 3 (UPI) — U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told the Pentagon workforce any budget reduction would take into account sound strategy and policy.

“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 said in his message.

President Obama Tuesday signed into law a bill raising the nation’s debt ceiling and outlining spending reductions.

Spending reductions resulting from the legislation — $350 billion during 10 years — are in line with what Defense Department leaders anticipated, the Pentagon said in a release.

“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?” Panetta wrote.

Across-the-board cuts in the past resulted in an undersized and underfunded force, Panetta wrote, pledging he would do everything possible to ensure reductions in defense spending aren’t pursued “in a hasty, ill-conceived way that would undermine the military’s ability to protect America and its vital interests around the globe.”

However, he noted the debt ceiling compromise passed by Congress and signed into law contains a mechanism that would trigger if Congress fails to reduce the deficit further. The potential slash in defense spending is not meant as policy but to spur a balanced approach to deficit reductions, he said.

“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,” Panetta wrote.

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