Defense secretary tries to ease employee fears about potential cuts
Sec. of Defense Leon Panetta greets troops during a recent trip to Kabul.
December 21st, 2012
04:27 PM ET

Defense secretary tries to ease employee fears about potential cuts

By Larry Shaughnessy

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta sent a memo this week to all the troops and civilians who work for him to address concerns about the mandatory spending cuts that would occur if the president and lawmakers do not reach a budget agreement by the end of the year.

In it, Panetta wrote that if the procedure, known as sequestration, were to occur, it "would not necessarily require immediate reductions in spending."

He also wrote that "under sequestration, we would still have funds available after Jan. 2, 2013, but our overall funding for the remainder of the year would be reduced."

It's a very different spin on the sequestration from Panetta, who in the past said it would be a "disaster." If this "meat ax" approach to budget cutting were used, he said, it would "hollow out the force."

The cuts are slated to be across the board, totaling roughly $500 billion over 10 years.

Panetta tried to reassure the troops that "the president indicated his intent to exercise his legal authority to exempt military personnel" from the mandatory cuts.

But he couldn't make the same promise to the Defense Department's million or so civilian employees.

Instead he said, "Should we have to operate under reduced funding levels for an extended period of time, we may have to consider furloughs or other actions in the future."

Asked about the change of tone, a senior defense official said, "The secretary continues to believe that sequestration would be devastating and is puzzled that Congress can't reach a deal."

The same official said the memo reflects the Office of Management and Budget's view of the issue, especially with respect to furloughs.

Panetta wrapped up the memo by writing, "I want to assure you that we will do our very best to provide clear information about the status of events as they unfold."

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Filed under: Congress • Defense Spending • Democrats • Panetta • Panetta • Pentagon • Politics • Republican • Security Brief • Sequestration • White House
July 11th, 2012
09:48 PM ET

DoD's China report too skimpy, House Republicans say

Update 7/12:  Pentagon spokesman George Little said the page limit directive has been rescinded.

By Larry Shaughnessy

Rep. Buck McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, led a group of Republicans in a news conference Wednesday to attack the Department of Defense over the brevity of a report about China's military.

The report is 19 pages long with and additional 33 pages of appendixes.

"I think that is outrageous," said McKeon, R-California. "We can't do our job if the department doesn't give us adequate information to do the things that we are required to do."

The DoD is required by law to report to Congress about China's military. Last year's report was 84 pages long with appendices.
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Filed under: China • McKeon • Republican
Congress Wars: Battle for the defense budget
May 28th, 2012
02:00 AM ET

Congress Wars: Battle for the defense budget

By Mike Mount, Senior National Security Producer

In what is shaping up to be a classic congressional right vs. left fight over defense and war funding, both the House and Senate are gearing up to battle over some expected and not-so-expected items in the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act.

On Thursday, the Senate Armed Services Committee passed its version of the bill, showing its hand to members of the House of Representatives on what it felt should be authorized for military spending.

The act authorizes spending limits and sets defense policy, but it does not actually appropriate the funds.

The committee version must still pass a full Senate vote. The House signed off on its bill this month. While a date has yet to be announced, both the final House and Senate versions will go through extensive negotiations to hammer out a final version of the legislation, expected in the fall.

Both bills have numerous amendments that will be debated and fought over in the coming months. Keep an eye on these five if you like political fireworks.

FULL POST

April 1st, 2012
01:10 PM ET

Rep. Ryan apologizes for comment about generals

By Ashley Killough

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan said Sunday he misspoke earlier in the week when he accused military officials of not being honest about the Pentagon budget.

“I really misspoke,” Ryan said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “I didn’t mean to make that kind of an impression. So, I was clumsy in how I was describing the point I was trying to make.”

On Thursday, the Wisconsin congressman said senior military leaders had been misleading when they defended a decrease in Pentagon spending proposals. He argued that the generals were not “giving us their true advice” and accused them of toeing an administration line.

"I think there is a lot of budget smoke and mirrors in the (administration's) Pentagon budget, which is not really a true, honest and accurate budget. When you confront military experts – retired or active – they concede these things to us," Ryan said.

Read more about the military's response on CNN's Political Ticker.


Filed under: 2012 Election • Budget • Dempsey • Military • Pentagon • Politics • Republican
Sitting atop the intel: The case file on Congressman Mike Rogers
November 23rd, 2011
11:19 AM ET

Sitting atop the intel: The case file on Congressman Mike Rogers

By Senior National Security Producer Suzanne Kelly

Editor's note: This is part of a Security Clearance series, Case File. CNN Senior National Security Producer Suzanne Kelly profiles key members of the security and intelligence community.

Being the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee comes with its own unique set of challenges. For starters, every day begins with a mountain of briefings on subjects that all seem pressing when it comes to keeping the country safe: ongoing operations against al Qaeda, cyber espionage being waged against American companies, Russians revamping their nuclear fleet, and Iran's nuclear intentions.

As chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Rep. Mike Rogers helps oversee America's 17 Intelligence agencies. He is one of only four members of the House or Senate who hold such a high clearance level. The intelligence information he receives is restricted to just the chairmen and the ranking members of both the House and Senate Intelligence Committees. It's a responsibility that can, and often does, keep him up at night.

"The intelligence committee is very different in the sense that its probably more engaged in activities than any other committee," says Rogers, R-Michigan. "We have a constant stream of information."
FULL POST

Some GOP candidates support waterboarding but CIA reluctant
November 16th, 2011
10:37 AM ET

Some GOP candidates support waterboarding but CIA reluctant

By CNN Sr. National Security Producer Pam Benson

Some Republican presidential candidates want to put controversial harsh interrogation techniques back into the CIA toolbox, but whether the agency would ever use them again is very much in doubt.

During the GOP debate this weekend, several candidates said they supported reinstating the use of waterboarding, a technique that simulates drowning, and is seen by many as a form of torture.

CNN spoke to more than a half dozen current and former intelligence officials who all believe waterboarding was effective in getting critical information from suspected terrorist detainees at the time it was used, but they believe CIA officers today would be very reluctant to use the technique even it was authorized by all the appropriate officials.

FULL POST

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Filed under: 2012 Election • Bachman • Cain • Central Intelligence Agency • Intelligence • Justice Department • Obama • Perry • Petraeus • Politics • Republican • Romney • Terrorism
Finally, a word about national security (a debate, actually)...
November 7th, 2011
06:00 AM ET

Finally, a word about national security (a debate, actually)...

Without question, the public's attention in the race for the White House has centered on the economy and domestic issues.  It’s a sign of how things have changed since the start of these post-September 11th times.  In 2004 and 2008, a good portion of the discussion focused on keeping American safe and foreign policy. But things began to shift as the 2008 election was wrapping up and the economy was hurting.

Now there is no question the campaign talk has moved from 9/11 to 9-9-9 (and other economic plans). A fact not lost on the Republican candidates who spend little time talking about national security issues.  Debate after debate, interview after interview, domestic issues have dominated the campaign so far.  Until now.

On November 22, CNN, along with AEI and The Heritage Foundation, will host a Republican candidate debate focused on national security topics.

In the run-up to the debate, Security Clearance asked both the sponsoring conservative think tanks to look at the key foreign policy issues and tell us what they want to hear candidates address. From Afghanistan toIraq,ChinatoSyria, cybersecurity to defense spending, the folks at Heritage Foundation and AEI will make sure you are fully prepped for the big debate.

The first in the series will publish today on Security Clearance.  For more coverage of the campaign, don't forget to read CNN's Political Ticker and our political section on CNN.com.

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CNN announces first GOP debate focused on national security
October 18th, 2011
07:27 AM ET

CNN announces first GOP debate focused on national security

National security will take center stage next month at a Republican presidential primary debate in the nation’s capital, The Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute and CNN announced Monday evening.

This will be the first debate of the 2012 presidential election to focus exclusively on the issues of national security and foreign policy.

CNN and the two conservative Washington-based think tanks said more details about the Nov. 15 debate will follow.

Watch for more updates on Security Clearance and CNN's Political Ticker


Filed under: 2012 Election • Politics • Republican