Panetta tries to assuage Pentagon budget-cutting concerns

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Wednesday attempted to assuage concerns about the debt ceiling deal's planned $350 billion cut to the Pentagon's budget over the next 10 years, stressing that military leaders have been anticipating a reduction of that size since President Obama announced a similar proposal in April.

But Panetta expressed deep reservations about the prospects for an additional $500 billion cut that would hit the Pentagon if a joint congressional committee created to find another $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction savings fails to do its job.

"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 in a lengthy letter circulated to Defense Department personnel.

That cut, or "trigger," is meant to be a worst-case scenario, forcing both parties to negotiate to find the requisite savings. Domestic discretionary funding would get a similar hit.

"It is designed to be unpalatable to spur responsible, balanced deficit reduction and avoid misguided cuts to our security," Panetta wrote.

Panetta pledged to reject "hasty, ill-conceived" cuts to the Pentagon's budget reminiscent of those put in place after the Vietnam War. Spending choices, he added, must be based on sound strategy and policy.

A former White House budget chief and House Budget Committee chairman, Panetta said he will move the Pentagon toward a successful audit of its books as quickly as possible -- a financial goal that has eluded the department for 14 years. Without an audit, many lawmakers and budget watchers worry the Pentagon cannot track how it spends its money, making the department vulnerable to wasteful spending.

"That will change," Panetta said. "I have directed that this requirement be put in place as soon as possible. America deserves nothing less."

Congress first required the Pentagon to complete an audit of its books by 1997, but the deadline was pushed back each time department officials failed to meet it. The current deadline is 2017, but lawmakers are doubtful the Pentagon can overcome its financial management problems in time.

The military, Panetta added, can no longer afford to spend more than it should on new weapons. "Going forward, we must ensure that the military gets the effective and affordable weapons it needs by redoubling our efforts to ensure procurement discipline," he wrote.

On Tuesday, President Obama nominated Pentagon acquisition chief Ashton Carter to be the next deputy Defense secretary, signaling that further reforms to the way the Pentagon buys its weapons will be key to cost-cutting at the Defense Department.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.