American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON – Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and British Defense Secretary Phillip Hammond talked defense strategy and the way ahead during a meeting yesterday at the Pentagon.
It was Panetta’s first meeting with Hammond, and it came following President Barack Obama’s announcement of the new U.S. strategic defense guidance.
Officials will use the guidance to set spending priorities in the president’s fiscal 2013 defense budget request. The aim is to set priorities in a constrained fiscal environment, as the department plans to trim $487 billion from the budget over the next 10 years.
The British also are under tight budget constraints, and plan to cut 8 percent out of their $59 billion annual defense budget over the next four years.
“They spent a good part of their meeting discussing innovative approaches to defense in an era of fiscal austerity, and agreed that NATO must continue to invest in military capabilities despite the imperative to achieve fiscal discipline,” Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said following the meeting.
The two men also discussed ongoing operations in Afghanistan, Little said. The British have 9,100 service members in the country – the second-largest foreign military presence. The British and U.S. secretaries discussed planning for transition to Afghan security lead.
“They touched on multiple regional issues” Little said, “to include relations with Pakistan and the threat of a nuclear armed Iran.”
The defense leaders also signed a “Statement of Intent on Carrier Cooperation and Maritime Power Projection” that will serve as the framework for increased cooperation and interoperability on the use of aircraft carriers. It also provides the basis for the U.S. Navy to assist the Royal Navy in developing its next generation of aircraft carriers, Little said.
“This cooperation is a cutting-edge example of close allies working together in a time of fiscal austerity to deliver a capability needed to maintain our global military edge,” he added.
Britain is building two angled-deck aircraft carriers that are scheduled to enter service in 2016 and 2018. The carrier version of the F-35 joint strike fighter will fly off the new ships.