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Defense Secretary Leon Panetta Visits Fort Bliss

Thursday, January 12, 2012 - 10:25pm

FORT BLISS- The U.S. Secretary of Defense was in the Borderland on Thursday addressing troops at Fort Bliss.

This was his first ever visit to the post, and it comes exactly one week after President Obama announced drastic cuts in military spending.

It wasn't just Secretary Leon Panetta's first visit to Fort Bliss, it was also his first visit to any major military installation since he was appointed to the position last July.

"You are a part of the strongest military power in the history of the world, and we have to maintain that strength,” Panetta said.

Secretary Panetta says there will be challenges adopting a new, cheaper defense strategy after announcing there will be almost half a trillion dollars in cuts.

"Particularly at a time when we face a series of threats that are still out there,” said Panetta.

Threats like Al-Qaida and Iran whose nuclear ambitions are now the most imminent threat to our national security according to Panetta.

Despite reductions in resource, he says keeping a strong presence in the middle east is a vital part of the new plan, along with taking care of those who serve.

"The troops and their families that time and time again were called upon to go to war, we cannot break faith with you,” said Panetta.

He assured them that the retirement benefits of all active military would be grandfathered in the new budget, but he can't say the same for any new recruits.

He also couldn't say exactly what programs will be affected by the cuts, at least not until next month when the budget will go to congress for approval.

No matter how this new slimmer pie ends up sliced, Secretary Panetta said the country's defense relies on Fort Bliss.

"You are in the end, the heart and soul of what makes up our military force for the future,” said Panetta.

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