Top U.S. military commanders in Washington for budget talks with Panetta

WASHINGTON – The top U.S. military leaders are meeting at the Pentagon on Wednesday and Thursday to learn where the Pentagon stands on its budget-cutting plans and give their ideas on what can be thrown overboard and what is essential to national security.

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta is hosting the meeting of the service chiefs, combatant commanders and senior civilian leaders. The Pentagon has dubbed it the “Large Group-Plus.”

“The intent is for this to be a free-flowing discussion,” said Pentagon press secretary George Little.

The commanders were not told to bring ready-made budget recommendations, and Panetta will not deliver any bad news just yet about their specific commands.  Little said it was meant to be more of a “conversation.”

The combatant commanders include regional leaders such as Pacific Command’s Adm. Robert Willard, and leaders of non-geographic commands, such as U.S. Special Operations Command’s Adm. William McRaven  and Strategic Command’s Gen. Robert Kehler, who oversees the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

Little also announced that he and Capt. John Kirby, spokesman for Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen for two more days until Mullen’s Friday retirement, will give a press conference at 2 p.m. on Thursday.



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