Yesterday at the 2011 Halifax International Security Forum -- basically the Davos for defense and foreign policy junkies at which 18 defense ministers from around the world are in attendance (about a 1:10 ratio with other conference guests and participants) -- US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta gave a mostly compelling speech that has no title but should be called "Security Deliverables in an Age of Austerity?"
Panetta was upfront with the assembled defense ministers that the US and all of them would have to find ways to "sharpen the application of resources" to major security challenges, that the age of austerity was here -- and that the US needed others to pick up their game in bridging the gap between defense upgrades needed and their particular fiscal and political constraints. This was a call for greater efficiency, greater pooling of resources, and innovation across the board.
Panetta did offer a line that Senator Jon Kyl or John McCain might have made which is used to distract rather than enlighten citizens about real economic and security choices they are facing today. He said:
I refuse to believe that we have to choose between fiscal responsibility and national security.
In my view, juxtaposing these two choices is a red herring. The US has a shifting scope of security concerns -- and has to face squarely the kind of shifts in resources Panetta admitted in his comments but then seemed to take back in the statement above.