Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta is acknowledging that cuts in the federal budget should come from entitlements, not the defense budget.
Asked about sequestration, which the White House proposed in order to play chicken with the Republicans over tax cuts, Panetta said:
The fact is that, you know, we have addressed the discretionary area, we’ve taken almost a trillion dollars out of discretionary area and out of defense alone, almost a half a trillion dollars just out of defense. I think the responsibility now, both Republicans and Democrats, has to be to look at the entitlement area, what savings can be achieved on entitlements and what additional revenues need to be on the table as well.
Panetta has been saying he opposes defense cuts since September:
We… cannot maintain a strong defense for this country if sequester is allowed to happen, number one… We need stability. You want a strong national defense for this country? I need to have some stability. And that’s what I’m asking the Congress to do. Give me some stability with regards to the funding of the Defense Department.
Panetta tried to blame Congress for the impending sequestration cuts as far back as August 2011, even though it was Obama who had started the battle; in The Price of Politics, Bob Woodward wrote, “President Barack Obama’s top deputies believed the prospect of massive defense cuts would compel Republicans to agree to a deficit-cutting grand bargain.”
White House officials have acknowledged that “sequestration was meant to be so terrible to prompt lawmakers to compromise and avoid it.”