Panetta: 'Partisan Dysfunction' Increases National Security Risks
February 6, 2013 – United States Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta told a Georgetown audience today that he fears continued bipartisan gridlock will result in an increased risk in national security and a loss of trust between citizens and Congress.
“What I see as the most urgent task facing this nation and facing all of us … is overcoming the partisan dysfunction that poses a threat to our quality of life, to our national security, to our economy [and] to our ability to address the problems that confront this country,” said Panetta, who has led the U.S. Department of Defense since July 2011.
Panetta said each budget crisis, including the one involving a March 1 deadline that cosequestration could occur, increases such risks.
“The pervasive budget uncertainty threatens our security and threatens our economic future,” he said. “This legislative madness was designed to be so bad … that no one in [his or her] right mind would let it happen.”
“Today crisis drives policy,” he added. “It has become too politically convenient to simply allow a crisis to develop and get worse and then react to the crisis. You create an aura, a constant uncertainty that pervades every issue and gradually undermines the very credibility of this nation to govern itself.”
Decades of Leadership
"Today crisis drives policy. It has become too politically convenient to simply allow a crisis to develop and get worse and then react to the crisis. You create an aura, a constant uncertainty that pervades every issue and gradually undermines the very credibility of this nation to govern itself."
—Leon Panetta, United States Secretary of Defense
Panetta’s address also focused on his past five decades of leadership and public service as he prepares to step down as the Pentagon’s top official.
Earlier in his career, Panetta served as the representative California’s 16th Congressional District from 1977 to 1993, and chaired the House Budget Committee during his final four years in Congress.
He then served as director of the Office of Management and Budget from 1993-1994; chief of staff to President Bill Clinton (F’68) from 1994-1997; and director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 2009-2011.
Georgetown Provost Robert Groves introduced Panetta.
Extraordinary Public Servants
The defense secretary said he benefited from a Jesuit education, and noted Georgetown’s contribution to public service, including the recently founded Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security.
He noted his work with Georgetown alumni, including President Clinton and Jeremy Bash (C’93), chief of staff at the CIA and Department of Defense, and George Little (G’00) the Pentagon’s press secretary.
“I’m deeply grateful to Georgetown for training such extraordinary public servants,” he said.
He also thanked the members of the Hoya Battalion, the university ROTC, who attended the address for their service.
“The talents of these men and women … underscore for me the university’s leadership in the study of global security,” he said. “All of this counts in terms of our country being more secure.”