U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Michael Mullen say they are concerned about the possibility of further defense spending cuts.
Panetta and Mullen told reporters Thursday that they understand the need for the $350 billion in defense cuts in the deal to raise the debt ceiling that was signed into law this week.
But they both cautioned against any further cuts to the Pentagon budget. This week's deal mandates that a Congressional committee come up with a plan for more targeted spending cuts. If they don't, the deal outlines automatic, across-the-board cuts that would dig into the military budget along with those of other agencies.
Panetta said that would do great harm to national security. He also said he will do “anything possible” to protect the welfare of those serving in the military and their families.
Asked about cuts to military salaries, Mullen noted that a significant number of servicemen and women are young, married, and “living paycheck to paycheck” . He said those people should not have to wonder whether or not they will be paid.
Questioned about the drawdown of troops in Iraq, Panetta said the United States will “always” maintain a broad and long-term relationship with the Iraqi people, and any decision on military presence there will be done with that in mind.