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While a third of the U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan are to be withdrawn by the middle of next year, the new secretary of defense, Leon Panetta, says there is still significant work to be done.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

Photogallery Pistorius Sentenced, Taken to Prison

Pistorius, convicted of culpable homicide in shooting death of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, will likely serve about 10 months of five-year sentence, before completing it under house arrest More

UN to Aid Central Africa in Polio Vaccinations

Synchronized vaccinations will be conducted after Cameroon reports a fifth case of the wild polio virus in its territory More

WHO: Ebola Vaccine Could Be in Use by January

WHO assistant director Dr. Marie Paule Kieny says clinical trials of Ebola vaccines are underway or planned in Europe, US and Africa 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.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid