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MEDIA ROUNDTABLE

Note: This event immediately followed the Major Budget Decisions Briefing presented by Defense Secretary Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Dempsey.

DEPUTY SECRETARY OF DEFENSE ASHTON CARTER: OK, well, welcome again.

I’m not going to try to repeat everything that’s been said before. We’re really here to answer your questions. I hope you all have a copy of the white paper here which describes the key decisions we’ve made in connection with the ’13 budget and their connection to the strategic guidance, which we released a few — a few weeks ago.

I’ll just comment on one of the questions that was already asked. The — I — oh, I should say, by the way, that this is a pretty complete description of the many tens of individual decisions we’ve made. There’s many, many items — individual items in here. We’re happy to answer questions about any of the items that are in the white paper.

We won’t be releasing the full budget until the president releases the full budget, and we won’t be going into detail on all of these items until we’ve had a chance to confer with Congress, which will begin next week.

But fundamentally, this — the detail in here describes the enormity of the adjustments that we were required to make. I think the secretary described it very well. The base budget is not decreasing over the years ahead, but neither is it continuing to rise in real terms as it has over the past few years and as we planned before the Budget Control Act was enacted.

So the difference between the amount that we planned to have and the amount last year and that we now amount to have — now plan to have, that’s where the famous $487 billion comes from. It’s that difference over 10 years, $259 billion over five years, so an adjustment of about 7 (percent) to — or 8 (percent) to 9 percent overall, which is a very substantial amount by any measure. And if you add to that the reduction in overseas contingency operations or OCO spending and consider the entire defense budget, you can see that we needed to make the most consequential adjustments that this department has had to make budgetarily in more than a decade. So it is very large.

These decisions were steered by the strategic guidance as the secretary and the chairman said — that came directly from President Obama and from them — and this sequence of strategy, then budget is obviously critical to us. No part of the budget was unexamined; no part was sacrosanct. You see everything in here. I think we looked at everything.

So there are a lot of tough decisions in there. Some parts of the budget were protected or even in increased, and inevitably that meant that — because of their importance to the country and to the future, inevitably that meant that other areas took more cuts. The result — and the secretary made this point, I just want to emphasize — re-emphasize it — is a carefully balanced package. It just can’t be looked at or modified piece by piece since a change in one area inevitably requires offsetting changes elsewhere, right, on balancing the overall package. So it is a package.

The paper describes it in three parts. First, our continued effort to make more disciplined use of the taxpayers’ money.

That was alluded to in one of the questions. Second, we made investments in force structure and investment, in accordance with the strategic guidance. And third, we made modest but important adjustments in personnel costs. Because of the value we place on the people of the all-volunteer force, who are what make it the world’s greatest force, there are lesser cuts in this category. But the senior leadership, including the Joint Chiefs of Staff, believes strongly that this category needed to be included in the overall package.

So these are three parts of the packa

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