Obama's Pentagon nominee vows to continue reforms

08:22, June 10, 2011      

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U.S. Central Intelligence Agency Director Leon Panetta testifies during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C., capital of the United States, June 9, 2011. Panetta has been nominated by U.S. President Barack Obama to succeed Robert Gates as the next U.S. Secretary of Defense. (Xinhua/Zhang Jun)

Leon Panetta, who was chosen by U.S. President Barack Obama to succeed outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates, on Thursday told a Congressional hearing that he would continue the reforms initiated by Gates if he is confirmed by the Senate.

The current director of the Central Intelligence Agency told the Senate Armed Services Committee if he is confirmed, he will be leading the Pentagon at a time of "historic change," with the nation confronted with "a multitude of challenges."

Panetta said Gates will be remembered "for the crucial reforms that he's tried to put in place in the way the Pentagon does business."

"Those are reforms that I intend to carry on," he told the committee, pledging to use a "focused, hands-on" management style to run the department.

Panetta said the challenges include the operations under way in Iraq and Afghanistan, al-Qaida and other terrorist networks, the proliferation of dangerous weapons, rising international powers, and political transformations underway in the Middle East and North Africa. In addition, "the next Pearl Harbor that we face could well be a cyber attack," he said.

This comes as the Defense Department attempts to cut 400 billion dollars in spending as part of the administration's deficit-reduction initiatives, Panetta noted.

"Our challenge will be to design budgets that eliminate wasteful and duplicative spending while protecting those core elements that we absolutely need for our nation's defense," he told the panel.

Panetta said he doesn't believe the United States needs to choose between strong fiscal discipline and a strong national defense.

"I don't deny that there are going to be tough decisions that have to be made and tough choices that have to be made," he said. "But we owe it to our citizens to provide both strong fiscal discipline and a strong national defense."

Source: Xinhua
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