Defense Secretary Leon Panetta took to the Hill Tuesday to lobby budget hawks to get the nation's debt under control by cutting spending and entitlements, not defense.
“You can’t meet the challenge that you’re facing in this country by continuing to go back at discretionary spending,” Panetta told lawmakers at a Senate Budget Committee hearing.
“That’s less than a third of federal spending. If you’re not dealing with the two thirds that is entitlements spending, if you’re not dealing with revenue and you keep going back to the same place, frankly you’re not going to make it, and you’re going to hurt this country’s security,” Panetta said.
Democratic Senator Kent Conrad, the committee chairman, has said that given the country's fiscal crisis more savings must be found in the core defense budget, and that it would be impossible to address the nation's deficit without doing so. Ranking Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions agreed with Panetta that America's budget can't be balanced with just Pentagon cuts and the escalating costs of entitlement programs must be addressed.
AP reports that Panetta, who was once chairman of the House budget panel, told senators that while he can find the planned savings of $487 billion over the next 10 years, any more than that would hamper the military's ability to meet future threats.