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  • 'Blizzard' of Words, but Panetta's Actions Will Determine National Security

    At his confirmation hearing today, Defense Secretary nominee Leon Panetta argued that the Cold War of the 20th century had been replaced by a “blizzard” of threats in the 21st. Remarking that “for our troops, there has been no shortage of war,” Panetta will likely concentrate on winding down American involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as completing a comprehensive review of military roles and missions to inform the President’s stated goal of a $400 billion reduction in security spending over the next decade.

    Panetta left unanswered, however, where these cuts might come from and which programs and capabilities might be affected.

    Much of the hearing dealt with the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. With regard to Iraq, Panetta spoke to the possibility of a sustained American presence past the expiration date of 2011 proscribed by the Iraqi–American Status of Forces Agreement. Panetta argued that the President should “seriously consider” the continued deployment of American troops if requested by the Iraqi government.

    On Afghanistan, Panetta argued that “fragile and reversible” gains have been made in security as well as with the training and equipping of local police and military forces. The real problem lies in the slow progress of creating just and responsive government—a process that lags behind improving the security situation.

    Bearing in mind the fragile nature of gains in Iraq and Afghanistan, Panetta would do well to heed his own advice that the most costly course of action would be to fail. Throughout the hearing, Panetta refused to go on the record agreeing with outgoing Secretary of Defense Robert Gates that any troop reductions in July should be modest, leaving open the possibility of a more accelerated withdrawal than many military planners had originally envisioned.

    Panetta also pledged to ensure that the United States has the “best-trained, best-equipped” military in the world; however, he sent mixed messages regarding his views on defense spending cuts. Saying that America needs the “very best” fighter planes available, he quickly pivoted to concerns over the rising costs of the F–35 Joint Strike Fighter. With F–22 production ending, the F–35 remains the only fifth-generation fighter to replace the rapidly aging and heavily used tactical fighter jets.

    The central long-term, unanswered question was the President’s plan to cut $400 billion from national security budgets. Panetta stated that he would await an official study on the subject before determining the pace, areas, and scope of these cuts, but he presupposed the outcome when he said that he didn’t think the review would show additional risk to the military. That doesn’t fully square with his comments that hollowing out the force would be a terrible mistake, as would across-the-board defense cuts—which is true.

    Unfortunately, it does not take a “hollow army,” as Senator John McCain (R–AZ) said, to harm national security. Even comparatively small cuts in defense—if applied to the wrong area—can harm America’s capacity to project power abroad, guarantee the defense of our allies, or to meet international commitments.

    As Senator McCain put it, “defense spending is not what is sinking this country into fiscal crisis.” It is unclear whether Panetta’s words about conditions-based withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan, or a sober and unbiased look at military needs, capabilities, and budgets, will translate into actions that align with his words today.

    Panetta is correct that there is a blizzard coming, but it is too early to say whether it will bury the military.

    Posted in Security [slideshow_deploy]

    7 Responses to 'Blizzard' of Words, but Panetta's Actions Will Determine National Security

    1. George Colgrove, VA says:

      $400 billion over 10 years is $40 billion a year. This is not alarming and considering the work of conservative groups like CATO and Heritage Foundation and even the GAO, there are a lot more places to cut that do not effect our military mission that can save well into the 100's of billions annually.

      Then you take Gates comments on the "unworkable" federal worker bureaucracy and the fact the pentagon pays upwards of 5 to 10 times over actual cost on purchases, evenmore cuts can be made. In FY11 it is looking like the DoD will spend up to $400 billion on defence contractor alone. If that is being charged at the lower end of Gates estimate, then there is at least $300 billion to be recovered.

      $40 billion in annual cuts is chump change compared to what we can do.

      Above all, conservatives, be involved. We need a balanced budget next year. Cuts will need to be made – lets make them wisely. Get more civilian (not federal worker) oversight on the budget. Look at how much we are spending. Open up avenues for more competition on harware and private sector services. Unload the "unworkable" sloth in the pentagon. Replace these with private sector alternatives. Finally consolidate all duplicative programs and administrative duties that are also being done outside of the DoD – outside the DoD!

    2. Zbigniew Mazurak, UK says:

      The Senate should utterly reject Leon Panetta as SECDEF-designate. He has been, for a longtime, a friend with a now-deceased CPUSA member, Hugo DeLacy, whom he called "Dear Hugo" in letters and to whom he provided secret information about American military operations. He also worked with him to undermine President Reagan's policies towards Guatemala, Cuba, and Nicaragua. The American Spectator has more information on this story.

      All Americans should call their Senators and warn them: "I will never vote for you again if you vote to confirm Leon Panetta as Secretary of Defense."

      The $400 bn dollar defense cuts demand must likewise be rejected.

      And speaking of Panetta, does the HF or anyone else have the questionnaire which Panetta filled out before his confirmation hearing (and which every nominee for every office requiring Senate confirmation must complete)? AP has obtained it from the SASC. Does anyone else have it? Could someone please publish it?

    3. Lloyd Scallan (New O says:

      Can't we yet recognize that anyone Obama nominates for any position in government, will not be a complete stooge to do Obama's bidding, while Obama remain behind the curtain pulling the strings. That of course gives Obama "plausible deniability" thinking he will be not be responsible for any fallout. Has any of Obama picks todate been nothing but lackeys with the same ideology as Obama. Panetta is just the latest.

    4. Nancy says:

      I hope they have done a FULL BACKGROUND CHECK on this Panetta…… Too many shady or just plain dark/blank areas. Communists, foreign spyes, John Birch Society, Latin America and so much more. This Panetta truly need a full background and security clearence before he is confirmed. Department of Defence Secretary – Please NO… I have two Grandsons in the US Military over in that middle east 'sandlot'…………

    5. Pingback: Must Know Headlines — ExposeTheMedia.com

    6. Pingback: Lo que haga Panetta determinará la seguridad nacional | Heritage Libertad

    7. Bill says:

      Panetta gets confirmed unanimously, not one Republican could at least question this mans ties to communist party members ( ie Hugh DeLacey ). This man is being appointed by President Obama to do to the military what he can't do in congress. Panetta will defund the military as ordered by President Obama, I'm sure these savings will be redistributed, maybe Acorn will benifit.

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