As reported yesterday, outgoing CIA Director Leon Panetta will be the Obama Administration’s new choice for Secretary of Defense. Pending Senate approval, he will replace Robert Gates at the end of June.
He will come into the position with the unenviable task of two major wars underway and a third one in Libya still escalating. The first immediate questions however will be financial ones, as the soaring budget deficit increases the number of Congressmen looking to pare down the record military spending of the past decade.
For his part, Panetta has vowed that the Pentagon under his watch will be “disciplined” in its spending and will continue the Gates era ‘cost-cutting.’ He also promised to ensure that the US maintained the “strongest military in the world.”
None of the comments are particularly telling, as the US could in dollar terms eliminate three quarters of their military budget and still have the best funded military on the planet. Though Panetta is seen as well-equipped to deal with potential cuts in spending, where Gates railed at even trivial cuts to the rate of spending increase, it largely remains to be seen what Panetta’s overall position will be.