WASHINGTON — Texas governor Rick Perry raised eyebrows Tuesday night during the 14th Republican presidential debate by suggesting that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta should resign to protest the hundreds of billions scheduled to be cut from military funding in coming years.
Pentagon planners are bracing for $600 billion in cuts to projected defense spending over the next decade after the deficit reduction committee on Monday announced its failure to develop an alternative plan to trim the federal deficit. The department has already agreed to cut another $450 billion over that span, and Panetta has stated publicly that more than $1 trillion in trims could cripple the military.
In response to a question about the committee’s failure, Perry blasted President Barack Obama for the country’s budget woes and then brought up Panetta’s job:
“This president has been an absolute failure when it came to this budget process. … But it was reprehensible, for me, for this president to stand in front of Americans and to say that that half a trillion dollars, $500 million-plus is not going to be on the table and we're just going to have to work our way through it, putting young men and women's life in jeopardy.
“And I will tell you, as a commander in chief, as an American citizen, that is totally and absolutely irresponsible. Even his own secretary of defense said it was irresponsible. As a matter of fact, if Leon Panetta is an honorable man, he should resign in protest."
In August, Pentagon reporters asked Panetta if he would resign to protest such defense spending cuts. His response: “I didn't come into this job to quit, I came into this job to fight. My intention is to fight to make sure that hopefully some common sense prevails here and that the committee that is established does its work in looking at these other areas of the budget.”