Next Defense Secretary Calls For 'Hard Choices'

Issue Brief
Tuesday, May 03, 2011

President Obama has turned to a well-known expert on the federal budget to run a Defense Department where the administration hopes to dramatically improve efficiency and reduce spending.

The President named Leon Panetta, who has been CIA director, to replace Robert Gates as secretary of defense. Noting Panetta’s previous service as director of the Office of Management and Budget in the Clinton administration, Obama said Panetta would “ensure that even as we make tough budget decisions, we’ll maintain our military superiority and keep our military the very best in the world.”

This should certainly be the goal for military leaders as well as elected officials. The President has called for $400 billion in national security spending reductions over the next 12 years. Panetta said Thursday that “hard choices” need to be made and that the Pentagon must be “strong and disciplined” in its spending.

That same day, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, told a forum in Washington that the federal debt is “the biggest single threat to national security” because it could mean less money for defense in the future.

He acknowledged that the rapid growth of the military budget over the past decade, however, “hasn’t forced us to make the hard choices.”

External links:President Announces New Members of National Security TeamPresident Obama's RemarksAdmiral Michael Mullen: Defense Department Must Help Solve Debt CrisisText of Adm. Mullen's Speech