As U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta settles into the top office at the Pentagon, he will have little time to get comfortable. Secretary Panetta will have to contend with a panoply of existing and evolving security issues, including three ongoing wars, the rise of China, and continued instability in the Middle East. More importantly, Secretary Panetta will have to manage these issues while dealing with what is likely to be a significantly constrained defense budget. In fact, how he oversees- and implements- the ongoing comprehensive review of the Pentagon’s roles and missions in the face of projected cuts of $400 billion over the next twelve years may well define his legacy as the 23rd Secretary of Defense.
On August 4, 2011, CNAS President John A. Nagl, Senior Advisor and Senior Fellow LTG David Barno, USA (Ret.), and Deputy Director of Studies and Senior Fellow Dr. Nora Bensahel led a roundtable discussion addressing the challenges faced by the new U.S. Secretary of Defense in a time of fiscal austerity. Participants discussed how defense spending cuts might take shape across areas ranging from acquisition and procurement to the personnel system and assessed the implications of cuts in different areas for the country’s military institutions and overall defense strategy.