Panetta, Clinton Talk Budget at NDU

The federal government does not have to choose between fiscal responsibility and national security, but there must be a truthful look at what the country’s needs and priorities are, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said earlier today during a televised conversation with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the National Defense University.

Clinton added that the nation needs to take a “holistic approach” to national security going forward.

The two leaders discussed the budget, along with the ongoing wars, Al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden and other topics during their one-hour talk moderated by Frank Sesno, Director of the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University.

Panetta said budget reductions need to go beyond cuts to discretionary spending, but look at the nearly two-thirds of the $4 trillion federal budget that goes toward mandatory spending.


“In the past we were able to look at these mandatory programs to make difficult choices and get spending in line with revenues and the same needs to ring true today,” Panetta said.

Clinton said that about one percent of the nation’s discretionary spending goes to the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development – a budget amount that Panetta called “essential.”

When it comes to national security, Clinton said the recent budget talks between Congress and the Obama Administration has put a “pall over our security interests” as adversaries see the country as weaker.

“This isn’t about party or politics, but about the United States of America and our people, and we need to have a responsible conversation on a lot of security issues and the budget to strengthen this country.”

Panetta said if the federal government failed to pay soldiers as a result of the deficit negotiations between Congress and the Obama Administration, it would have resulted in a hollowing out of the armed services, breaking the troops and their families faith with the nation.


“It would have undercut our ability to have a volunteer armed service,” Panetta said.

Other highlights:

  • Clinton called for “strategic patience” in Libya.
  • International opinion is galvanizing against Asad regime in Syria.
  • Panetta: “We are a nation that has a special role in the world.”
  • Panetta said the Pentagon is prepared to make $350 billion in cuts over the next 10 years
  • A private sector advisory panel last month drafted a plan to eliminate the current retirement payment system under which those who retire with 20 years of service get immediate, lifetime payments of some 50 percent of their salaries and those with less than 20 years get nothing

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