Entries in Leon Panetta (30)


Pentagon Announces New Medal for Drone, Cyber Warriors

DoD photo by Tech. Sgt. Jacob N. Bailey, US Air Force(WASHINGTON) -- The Pentagon’s keeping up with the times.  Now that cyberwarfare and drone strikes are part of modern combat, Defense Secretary Panetta has approved a new Distinguished Warfare Medal that will recognize heroic action from military members involved in those activities.

Controversially, because it’s a Department of Defense medal, it outranks the Bronze Star, which is the fourth highest medal for valor and is usually issued for heroic action on the battlefield (if it has the V device attached to it -- V stands for valor).
At his news conference Wednesday, Panetta said his experience as Defense Secretary and as CIA Director had provided him with first-hand experience of how these new warriors, “have changed the way wars are fought” and impacted ground battles.  However, he said there wasn’t a way to honor their great contributions which is why he’s authorized the new medal that recognizes the reality of warfare in the 21st Century.

"The medal provides distinct department-wide recognition for the extraordinary achievements that directly impact combat operations, but that do not involve acts of valor or physical risk that combat entails."
He said the new medal will be reserved only for those who have met the highest standards.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Some Administration Officials Had Early Concerns Benghazi Attack Was Act of Terrorism

US Department of Defense Photo by Glenn Fawcet(WASHINGTON) -- Obama administration officials told ABC News they had early concerns the attack in Benghazi, Libya was the work of terrorists. Events were too uncertain, and suspicions had been aroused, officials said.

Panetta Thursday said that the attack that killed four Americans on the anniversary of 9/11 was not only carried out by terrorists -- it was pre-meditated.

“As we determined the details of what took place there and how that attack took place,” Panetta told reporters, “it became clear that there were terrorists who had planned that attack.”

The White House first suggested the attack was spontaneous -- the result of an anti-Muslim video that incited mobs throughout the region.

“Let’s be clear, these protests were in reaction to a video that had spread to the region,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said on Sept. 14.

When ABC News pressed Carney on whether that included the Benghazi attack, in which U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other American men were killed, Carney said, “we certainly don’t know. We don’t know otherwise. We have no information to suggest that it was a preplanned attack.”

On ABC's This Week on Sept. 16, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said, “our current best assessment, based on the information that we have at present, is that, in fact, what this began as, it was a spontaneous -- not a premeditated -- response to what had transpired in Cairo. In Cairo, as you know, a few hours earlier, there was a violent protest that was undertaken in reaction to this very offensive video that was disseminated. We believe that folks in Benghazi, a small number of people came to the embassy to -- or to the consulate, rather, to replicate the sort of challenge that was posed in Cairo. And then as that unfolded, it seems to have been hijacked, let us say, by some individual clusters of extremists who came with heavier weapons … And it then evolved from there.”

White House officials acknowledge that assessments have changed over time as intelligence has been confirmed, but they insist that no information was given in bad faith and there was no attempt to downplay the attack.

But sources told ABC News that intelligence officials on the ground immediately suspected the attack was not tied to the movie at all. The attackers knew where to get Ambassador Stevens after he’d fled to a so-called safe house half a mile away. That building was hit with insurgent mortars -- suggesting the terrorists knew what they were doing.

As of Thursday afternoon, officials from the Obama administration were not even 100 percent certain that the protest of the anti-Muslim film in Benghazi occurred outside the U.S. diplomatic post.

In a closed-door briefing with top officials, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper described the mortar attack on the safe house as suggesting that the terrorist attack was one of opportunity, not pre-meditation, since the mortars were not used to attack the consulate earlier in the day.

President Obama has repeatedly said the investigation is on to find the killers and bring them to justice. But as first reported by CNN, ABC news has learned that the FBI -- which has been dispatched to Libya to take the lead in the investigation -- has not even reached Benghazi yet.

This is largely due to safety concerns. Indeed, as of Thursday, senior State Department officials said that the diplomatic presence in Libya -- which was already down to emergency-level staffing -- would be further reduced.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Leon Panetta Blasts Ex-SEAL Who Wrote Bin Laden Raid Book

TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta became the highest-ranking U.S. official to speak out against the former Navy SEAL who wrote a firsthand account of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, saying the commando broke his promise to America and could have given away secrets that "tipped off" the enemy.

"There's no question that the American people have a right to know about this operation. That's why the President spoke to the American people when that operation happened," Panetta said Tuesday on CBS' This Morning.  "But people who are part of that operation, who commit themselves to the promise that they will not reveal sensitive operations and not publish anything without bringing it through the Pentagon so we can ensure that it doesn't reveal sensitive information -- when they fail to do that, we have got to make sure that they stand by the promise they made to this country."

"I cannot, as Secretary, send a signal to SEALs who conduct these operations [that] you can conduct those operations and then go out and write a book about it or sell your story to The New York Times.  How the hell can we run sensitive operations here that go after enemies if people are allowed to do that?" he said.

The book No Easy Day is a first-person memoir written by a former SEAL Team Six member under the pseudonym Mark Owen that includes a detailed account of the May 2011 operation in Abbottabad, Pakistan, to get bin Laden.  According to the book, Owen was the second man in the room after bin Laden was shot and put a few bullets in the terror leader himself before taking the unreleased pictures of the dead al Qaeda leader.

The book follows Owen's rise through the Navy's ranks to elite SEAL Team Six and describes the various levels of training, walks through some on-the-ground operational tactics employed by the SEAL commandos and gives a minute-by-minute account of the bin Laden raid.  Owen left the service in April, less than a year after the mission, according to military records provided to ABC News.

Beyond writing under a pseudonym, Owen said he changed the names of other people involved in the operation, including a CIA analyst, to protect their identities and took pains not to reveal sensitive information. The book's publisher, Dutton, also said the memoir was vetted by a former special operations attorney to make sure Owen wasn't betraying any classified information.

But officials from the Pentagon to the CIA to the White House said they were not provided a copy of the book to review before publication.  In late August, the Pentagon wrote a letter to Owen in which it said it was considering legal action against him for breaking non-disclosure agreements, sparking a brief back-and-forth between the Pentagon and lawyers for Owen, who said he had not violated the agreements.

While Panetta declined to say whether or not he thought Owen should be prosecuted, he said the government has to "take steps to make clear that we're not going to accept this kind of behavior."  Panetta said that leaking such information could "jeopardize other operations and the lives of others that are involved in those operations."

"I think when somebody talks about the particulars of how those operations are conducted, what that does is tell our enemies essentially how we operate and what we do to go after them.  And when you do that, you tip them off," he said.

No Easy Day was originally intended to be released Tuesday, on the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, but the sale date was moved up after the book's existence leaked, causing a tidal wave of controversy and demand for the first-ever inside look at the historic raid.

Owen said he plans to give a majority of the proceeds from the book to charities that support the families of fallen SEALs, but at least one major SEAL charity, The Navy SEAL Foundation, already announced it would not be accepting donations from the book sales, citing Owen's possible legal troubles.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Leon Panetta Pays Tribute to Passengers and Crew of Flight 93

Department of Defense/Glenn Fawcett(SHANKSVILLE, Pa.) -- While Vice President Joe Biden is scheduled to deliver a speech Tuesday at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pa., Secretary of State Leon Panetta offered his own tribute Monday at the crash site where 40 passengers and crew members fought valiantly against al Qaeda hijackers on Sept. 11, 2001.

It is believed that the hijackers had planned to crash the plane into either the White House or the Capitol but were thwarted when those aboard Flight 93 refused to allow the terrorists to carry out their mission.

Panetta, who was making his first visit to the memorial in Shanksville, said the crash site was "hallowed ground because this is the final resting place of American patriots."

The defense chief suggested that the 40 on board Flight 93 were among the first casualties of a new war, adding, "We honor those and all of those who have fought and died for this country who made the ultimate sacrifice to defend the United States of America."

Although al Qaeda appears to be less potent than it was 11 years ago, especially following the death of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, Panetta warned that the group remains a threat and that the U.S. will remain vigilant in stopping the movement whether it's here or overseas.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Pentagon Launches Website to Stop Bogus Medal Winners

Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Unscrupulous people will be less inclined to fake medals won in the military because of a new website launched by the Pentagon on Wednesday.

The White House and Congress were taken aback after a recent Supreme Court ruling that tossed out the Stolen Valor Act.  While admitting that pretending to be a military hero is reprehensible, the judges maintained that it's protected free speech and fakers should not be subject to fines or jail time.

But according to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, "One of the most important things we can do for all veterans is to honor the service of those who have gone above and beyond the call of duty."

Therefore, the new site will list only those who have legitimately won special honors for displaying valor while in armed forces.

It will begin with Medal of Honor recipients and then gradually add other honors including the Army’s Distinguished Service Cross and the Navy and Air Force service crosses.

That way, people who seek to fudge their resume might think twice about it if there's a list that can expose them as frauds.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Secretary Panetta Pays Tribute to ‘Wounded Warriors’

TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Defense Secretary Leon Panetta welcomed 50 wounded service men and women who participated in this year’s Warrior Games competition at a recognition ceremony Monday at the Pentagon. The competition is an annual event hosted by the United States Olympic Committee and supported by the Department of Defense.

Five teams of wounded, ill and injured military members and veterans chosen from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force and U.S. Special Operations Command compete with each other, and this year against British soldiers. In Colorado Springs last month, the athletes vied for medals in swimming, archery, track and  field, wheelchair basketball, sitting volleyball, shooting, and cycling.

“These men and women, who overcome immense odds to suddenly come and compete in these games, represents, I believe, the strength, the integrity, the character of many American service members who have persevered in the face of huge challenges, challenges that they’ve had to recover from the wounds of war,” said Panetta.

Panetta told the story of Navy Lt. Brad Snyder who was blinded by an IED explosion last year in Afghanistan while serving as a bomb disposal technician.  Lt. Snyder competed in last month’s games and won a total of seven gold medals; three in track and four in swimming. Panetta also highlighted Lt. Snyder’s achievement of setting the new world  record for vision-impaired athletes in both the 100 meter and the 400 meter freestyle at last week’s U.S. Paralympics swimming trials. He’ll compete in the Paralympics Games in London on Sept. 7 -- exactly one year to the day of his injury.

“Brad, we’re all in awe of your determination and your personal spirit,” Panetta said, turning to the young man in the audience. “And all of us are going to be cheering your success in London. God bless you,” he said to crowd applause and cheers.

The secretary then presented each of the 50 athletes with a Secretary of Defense coin, and took an individual picture with the beaming young men and women, as their friends and families applauded. Panetta also thanked the United Services Organization, the Fisher House Foundation, the Semper Fi Fund, Team Semper Fi, Army Homefront Fund and ABC correspondent Bob Woodruff’s Foundation for their work with wounded service men and women and veterans.

The secretary said he will travel to Texas later this week to visit recently wounded military members who are recovering at Brook Army Medical Center. Panetta said he will take the stories of the Wounded Warrior athletes with him to help inspire those service men and women struggling to recover.

“I often meet these extraordinary young men and women just days after they’ve been wounded in battle. In that acute phase of recovery, I know that it’s hard for some to imagine ever competing for an athletic event,” said Panetta. "Yet the will, the sheer guts to overcome the wounds, to overcome the obstacles that face these warrior athletes, their determination to return to a new normal, is not just inspiring; it is nothing short of a miracle.”

Panetta is not the only influential figure to honor the Wounded Warriors. Last month Prince Harry was in Washington as a special guest at a reception honoring the British soldiers who participated in this year’s games for the first time.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Panetta on Military Suicides: 'We Can Do More, We Must Do More'

DOD photo by Glenn Fawcett(WASHINGTON) -- More active duty troops die from suicide than from combat, and the Pentagon chief is frustrated that efforts to prevent suicides are not succeeding.  And despite the Pentagon's efforts so far, suicides are going up among active duty troops – 25 percent higher just this spring.

Speaking at a conference on suicide prevention for service members, veterans and their families, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Friday called the uptick in suicides the "most frustrating challenge" of his position.

“We can do more, we must do more, and together we will do more to prevent suicides,” Panetta said, adding that “there are no easy answers here. There are no quick fixes. There are no simple solutions.”

The defense secretary said changes must start at the top. “Leaders throughout the department must make it understood that seeking help is a sign of strength not a sign of weakness,” Panetta said.

Panetta said the military now has 9,000 mental health professionals -- a one-third increase -- in hospitals, clinics, and even war zones.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Panetta to Navy Grads: Military Is Evolving in Strategy, Diversity

File photo. Tech. Sgt. Jacob N. Bailey, U.S. Air Force(ANNAPOLIS, Md.) -- Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told a graduating class of naval officers Tuesday that rapidly changing global challenges for the United States meant they would be tasked with leading a military in metamorphosis.

“You must be prepared to respond to whatever threats we confront in the future with courage, with creativity and with leadership,” Panetta said, “Adapting to new challenges is what the naval service does best. This is not a time for playing it safe. It’s a time for imagination, a time for initiative.”

He made the remarks Tuesday to 1,099 graduates of the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis. The ensigns and second-lieutenants-to-be, sitting in full dress uniform under a blazing sun, were warned of the dangers they would face.

Panetta told the graduates the threat of a nuclear North Korea and Iran, cybersecurity, the rising prominence of the Asia-Pacific, and the ongoing pursuit of terrorism were reminders that “we are still at war.”

“All of this coming at a time of increasing budget challenges here at home,” said Panetta. "Our nation now looks to you, the next generation of military leaders, to confront the challenges I just outlined.”

Panetta touted NATO’s success in Libya and America’s commitment to a 2014 drawdown in Afghanistan. He told the students that strengthening ties with China would be “key” to peace from the Pacific to South Asia.

“That reality is inescapable for our country and for our military,” he said.

As the military’s strategies evolve, so do the very makeup of its members, said the secretary.

“You are men and women from every state in the union and 12 foreign nations; rich and poor; secular and religious; black, white, Latino, Native American, Asian; straight and gay.”

Some of 2012′s crop of military officers will be the first to enter the service as openly gay service members, eight months after the repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

This Annapolis class even witnessed the graduation of its first paraplegic student, 22-year-old Kevin Hillery. He was paralyzed from the waist in an accident during his junior year, but was allowed to remain at the academy to finish his classes.

Panetta said the diversity of the class served as a tribute to the first African-American graduate of the war college, Lieutenant Commander Wesley Brown. Brown, a member of the class of 1949, died last week.

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus introduced Panetta at Tuesday’s ceremonies. Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and Rep. Robb Wittman, R-Va., were also in attendance.

Panetta’s appearance at Annapolis means a member of the administration has now officiated at each of the major military academies’ graduation ceremonies this year. In the last month President Obama has spoken at the Air Force Academy in Colorado, Vice President Biden at West Point, and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano at the Coast Guard school in Connecticut.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Panetta Demands F-22 Raptor Fighter Fixes After Mid-Air Scares

U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Kasey Close(WASHINGTON) -- Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has demanded the Air Force take measures to make America's most expensive fighter plane, the F-22 Raptor, safer for its pilots in light of an ongoing, potentially deadly problem with the plane's oxygen system, a Pentagon spokesperson said Tuesday.

As a recent ABC News investigation found, for more than four years pilots for the F-22 Raptor have reported at least 25 incidents of experiencing "hypoxia-like symptoms" while at the controls of the $420 million-plus-a-pop jet. Hypoxia is caused by a lack of oxygen to the brain and is characterized by dizziness, confusion and disorientation.

Among other precautions, Panetta ordered the Air Force to expedite the installation of an automatic emergency back-up oxygen system to the planes, spokesperson George Little told reporters.

Currently, pilots who believe they're experiencing oxygen system problems have to manually reach for a ring in a cramped corner of the cockpit to activate the emergency back-up system. The activation ring itself was already such a problem that the Air Force recently re-designed it for the entire fleet to make it more accessible.

In one fatal incident in November 2010, the Air Force said one of its pilots, Capt. Jeff Haney, had been too distracted by trying to activate the manual back-up system after a malfunction cut off his primary oxygen completely and he accidentally flew his plane into the ground.

One of two pilots who recently spoke out about the F-22's dangerous problems on CBS News' 60 Minutes said that he once experienced such disorientation due to apparent hypoxia in mid-air that he struggled to even locate the manual emergency oxygen system.

Panetta also ordered flight restrictions on the F-22 "effective immediately" that require it to stay relatively close to possible landing strips in case of emergency. In Alaska, the F-22 will no longer fly long-distance training missions, and instead those missions will be taken on by older F-15 and F-16 fighters, Air Force spokesperson Lt. Col. John Dorrian said. Panetta also directed the Air Force to provide him regular updates on the progress in the investigation into the planes' problems.

Despite multiple investigations into the plane's oxygen system and a grounding of the entire $79 billion fleet for nearly five months last year, the Air Force has been unable to determine the source of the problem.

The Air Force admitted earlier this month that it was such a concern that a "very small number" of pilots requested not to fly or to leave the F-22 program altogether.

The Air Force has long maintained that the rate of incidents is exceedingly rare -- 25 compared to the thousands of missions flown without incident -- and has been working hard to determine what is wrong.

The Air Force said in March it planned to implement an automatic emergency back-up oxygen system as one of 14 recommendations made by a scientific advisory board convened to investigate -- ultimately unsuccessfully -- the root cause of the hypoxia-like symptoms. Pentagon spokesperson Capt. John Kirby said the Secretary knows the Air Force is working hard, but wanted to "add his muscle" to help find answers.

Despite multiple forward deployments, none of the jets in the $79 billion fleet have ever flown a combat operation for the United States since going combat-ready in late 2005.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Pentagon: Fewer Soldiers, More Drones Will Save Money

TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Defense Secretary Leon Panetta detailed Thursday how the Obama administration plans to achieve $487 billion in cuts over the next decade, in part by reducing the number of ships, planes and troops but continuing to fund elite special forces -- and support technologies like unmanned drones.

Panetta will request a Pentagon budget of $525 billion for fiscal year 2013, a $6 billion reduction from last year's budget and $33 billion less than what had been forecast a few years ago. The administration will also ask for another $88.4 billion to maintain the U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan, a reduction from the $115 billion being spent this year.

Panetta told reporters that the impact of the cuts will be far-ranging, "make no mistake, the savings we are proposing will impact all 50 states, and many districts across America."

Anticipating the tough fight the proposals will likely face on Capitol Hill, Panetta said they "will be a test of whether reducing the deficit is about talk or action."

The plan presented Thursday reflects the new military strategy released earlier this month that shifts the military's attention away from the wars of Iraq and Afghanistan towards Asia and the Middle East.

To that end the Pentagon will continue to fund the resources that enable it to project its power into those regions, such as the development of a new long-range bomber and maintaining the Navy's fleet of aircraft carriers at 11. One of the Navy's new Combat Littoral ships will be based in Singapore and patrol craft will continue to operate out of Bahrain.

There are interesting plans to "acquire an afloat staging base for support to ISR, Special Operations Force, and countermine missions." Very little is known about this proposed facility, which one Defense official said was intended for deployment to Asian waters. ISR is the acronym for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, Pentagon shorthand for drones, so presumably the platform will increase the projection of drone activity to that part of the world.

It was also announced Thursday that the Air Force will also be asked to ramp up by 30 percent the number of Combat Air Patrols (CAPs) that its Predator drones fly daily, from 65 to 85. Referred to as CAPs, Combat Air Patrols usually require three Predator drones rotated daily to carry out 24-hour surveillance missions. An Air Force official says the service already has available the drone aircraft needed to ramp up to 85 CAPs but will need extra manpower and equipment assigned to the mission to carry it out on a long-term basis.

Some weapons buys will continue, but will be delayed by a few years, notably the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which is intended to replace most of the fighter jets in the Army, Navy and Marines. Also delayed will be the Army's Ground Combat Vehicle, and the Navy will delay by a year the purchase of a new submarine and an amphibious assault ship.

Other weapons in development were canceled outright, including the JLENS Missile, the JAGM missile, and the Block 30 version of the Global Hawk surveillance aircraft. All were projects that were found to offer the same capability as existing weapons, but at a higher cost.

With the Army no longer required to be large enough to conduct sustained counterinsurgency campaigns like it did in Iraq and Afghanistan, it will go down from 45 brigades to 38, part of a planned reduction of 80,000 soldiers from 570,000 to 490,000. The Army will also begin emulating a practice long used by its Special Forces. Army brigades will be pre-focused for certain parts of the world so that they become expert in local languages and culture.

The already-planned reduction in the number of Marines will be larger than expected as it is reduced in size from 202,000 to 182,000. The reduction in forces for both services will still leave them larger than they were prior to 9/11.

The Air Force will lose six of its 60 fighter squadrons -- estimated to be between 108 and 144 aircraft -- as well as 27 of its oldest giant C-5A cargo planes and 65 of the oldest C-130s still flying. Seven Navy cruisers and two amphibious ships will be retired early.

Attempting to tackle the rising costs in military benefits, Panetta announced that the Defense Department would recommend increases in health care enrollment fees, pharmacy co-pays and deductibles paid by retirees under the age of 65.

Panetta also recommended that Congress form a commission to review military retirement benefits. He said any binding recommendations the panel arrived at would not affect any military members serving at the time, but only apply to new recruits.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio