News / USA

New US Defense Secretary Panetta Faces Many Challenges

US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta
US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta
Meredith Buel

Leon Panetta, 73, will become the 23rd U.S. secretary of defense, replacing the retiring Robert Gates on July 1. 

Decade of war

The United States has been a nation at war for nearly a decade and the all-volunteer force has been stretched by years of combat.  More than 1,500 U.S. troops have been killed in Afghanistan and the war has become increasingly unpopular with the American public.

While a third of the U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan are to be withdrawn by the middle of next year, the new secretary of defense, Leon Panetta, says there is still significant work to be done.

“My first task at DOD [Department of Defense] will be to ensure that we prevail in the conflicts that we are engaged in," Panetta said. "In Afghanistan, we must continue to degrade the Taliban.”



Afghanistan drawdown


Travis Sharp, a military analyst at the Center for a New American Security, says the withdrawal from Afghanistan will be a significant issue facing Panetta.

“And we want to do that quite carefully," cautioned Sharp, "because if the drawdown is not done properly we could sacrifice some of the security gains that we have made in Afghanistan over the last year, thanks in large part to the troops that were added by President Obama.”

Bin Laden raid

Panetta comes to the Pentagon after serving as chief of the CIA, where he supervised the raid that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.   Panetta has also been a strong supporter of increased drone attacks on al-Qaida and Taliban insurgents based along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan.

“We are engaged in the most aggressive operations in the history of the CIA in that part of the world and the result is that we are disrupting their leadership,” Panetta said.

Those drone attacks are very unpopular in Pakistan and managing the relationship with Islamabad is another major test for the new defense secretary.

US-Pakistan relations


Analyst Travis Sharp says Panetta will serve as a middleman between the United States and Pakistan.

“It will be a difficult balancing act and I think that there will be many bumps along the way," noted Sharp.  "But Panetta’s objective at the outset will be to try to maintain some semblance of a relationship between the United States and Pakistan because quite honestly the countries do need one another if they are going to cooperate and solve the terrorism problem.”

Expected cutbacks

Panetta is a former Democratic Party congressman with extensive budget experience.  He was chairman of the House Budget Committee and headed the White House budget office under President Bill Clinton.

American Enterprise Institute senior strategic analyst Gary Schmitt says Panetta’s biggest challenge will be to manage cutbacks in the Pentagon’s huge budget.

“If the administration has its way and there are hundreds of billions of dollars more in cuts, this is going to require significant downsizing of the U.S. military and force structure,” said Schmitt.

Spending shift

President Obama has ordered $400 billion in national security budget cuts during the next 12 years.  This will be a major shift after years of larger Pentagon budgets following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States.

Panetta is well aware the days of nearly unlimited defense budgets are over.

“Our challenge will be to design budgets that eliminate wasteful and duplicative spending while protecting those core elements that we absolutely need for our nation’s defense,” he said.

The United States continues to face a large budget deficit and the U.S. military is spending $10 billion a month on the war in Afghanistan.

Analysts like Gary Schmitt say withdrawing troops from two conflicts does cut expenses.

“When you are sitting in the White House and you want to cut the deficit, getting troops out of Iraq and getting troops out of Afghanistan as quickly as you can does make a difference,” Schmitt said.

Panetta is the son of Italian immigrants and he served as a lieutenant in the Army in the 1960s. He and his wife Sylvia own a family farm in Carmel Valley, California.

You May Like

Beloved Lion Killing Sparks Virtual, Real Life Outrage

Twitter, as usual, was epicenter for anger directed at Palmer, with some questioning his manhood, calling for him to be released into the wild More

Video Booming London Property Market a Haven for Dirty Money

Billions of dollars from proceeds of crime, especially from Russia, being laundered through London property market, according to anti-corruption activists More

Video Scouts' Decision on Gays Meets Acceptance in Founder's Hometown

One former Scout leader thinks organization will move past political, social debate, get back to its primary focus of turning boys into good citizens More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’i
X
July 29, 2015 9:34 PM
Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs