Washington: Asked to reduce the defence budget by USD 487 billion over the next decade, the Pentagon is faced with challenge to maintain a force strong enough to meet the challenges of the future, US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has said.
"It is a period of great challenge for the Department, but we have also taken the mandate to reduce the defense budget by USD 487 billion over the next decade as an opportunity to build the force we need to confront the security threats and challenges of the future," Panetta said.
In his remarks to the Association of Defense Committees, Monterey, California, Panetta referred to the new defense strategy unveiled this year.
That strategy consists of five key elements, he said.
"As we draw down from the wars, we will be smaller and leaner, but we must remain agile, flexible, ready and technologically advanced. We will rebalance our global posture and presence to emphasise the Asia-Pacific and the Middle East," he said.
"We will build innovative partnerships and strengthen key alliances and partnerships elsewhere in the world. We must ensure we can quickly confront and defeat aggression from any adversary anytime, anywhere.
"Finally, this can`t simply be about cutting we have to make key investments in technologies and capabilities, including our industrial base," said the Defense Secretary.
Panetta said the Defense Department`s budget request for 2013 was the first step in implementing this strategy.
"As we implement the strategy, one of my guiding principles has been to do so in close partnership with all those who support our defense enterprise and our national security.
"For that reason, the Department has engaged extensively in a two-way dialogue with Congress, with our defense industrial partners, with foreign allies and partners, and with our defense communities across the country," he said.
Panetta said to remain the strongest military on earth, the US has to protect and invest in those programs essential to the health and morale of its force in areas such as housing, environmental cleanup, education and transportation.
"We also need to work with defense communities to ensure they take advantage of the opportunity to hire veterans and military spouses, who can make a real contribution and greatly enrich the community," he said.