Reuters Washington Extra – Panetta’s pain
Leon Panetta, famous here in Washington for being a “budget guy”, has a budget challenge at the Pentagon that few would relish. He probably doesn’t relish it either, but it could be the crowning achievement in a remarkable career if he pulls it off.
Today he fired the opening salvo in what is expected to be a long budget fight in Congress for the American military of the future – a much leaner one at that. He’s trying to wear both hats, that of the budget guy (and historic deficit hawk) and that of a custodian of a strong military.
He will be hit with accusations of not cutting enough from a Defense Department that accounts for 20 percent of federal spending. But many on Capitol Hill are already blasting him for going too far, leading America toward irreparable decline.
Normally cool and collected, there is one type of cut that clearly makes Panetta uncomfortable – base closures – something he opened the door to doing today. As a former congressman, he knows the toll they take on a community, its jobs and its income. He called the process “a son of a bitch” in November. Today, there was no such tough language, but a clear acknowledgement that pain was on the way.
Here are our top stories from Washington…
Pentagon cuts reshape military, trim costs
The Pentagon unveiled a 2013 budget plan to cut the size of the U.S. military by eliminating nearly 100,000 ground troops, mothballing ships and trimming air squadrons in an effort to reduce spending by $487 billion over the next decade. “Make no mistake, the savings that we are proposing will impact all 50 states and many districts, congressional districts across America,” Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told a news conference at the Pentagon.
For more of this story by David Alexander and Jim Wolf, read here.
Gingrich, Romney play for cheers in Florida debate
This time, the cheering will be back. Five days before their showdown in Florida’s Republican U.S. presidential primary, Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney headed into a debate that had the makings of a raucous encounter between increasingly bitter rivals. Unlike Monday’s subdued debate in Tampa, in which the crowd was urged to remain silent and not cheer candidates’ answers, this debate will allow cheering.
For more of this story by Steve Holland, read here.
Gingrich slams Romney on immigration, Obama on taxes
Republican Newt Gingrich, cranking up the campaign rhetoric, mocked White House rival Mitt Romney’s plan for self-deportation of illegal immigrants as a “fantasy” on Wednesday and assailed President Barack Obama’s tax ideas as “stupid.” Gingrich, who has surged in recent polls to pull into a virtual tie with Romney in Florida after beating him last week in South Carolina, poked fun at Romney during a forum sponsored by the Spanish-language network Univision.
For more of this story by David Adams and Steve Holland, read here.
Obama pushes energy plan in campaign-style tour
President Barack Obama pitched a plan to boost U.S. use of natural gas and open more land for offshore drilling during a campaign-style tour aimed at bolstering confidence in his economic stewardship. At a stop in Las Vegas, Nevada, the Democratic president sought to counter Republican criticisms of his energy policies as he proposed tax incentives for companies to buy natural gas trucks, which would help build demand for abundant domestic supplies of the fuel.
For more of this story by Caren Bohan, read here.
U.S. needs long-term site for nuclear waste – panel
The United States must urgently work to find a new central site to house its spent nuclear fuel and probe whether Japan’s nuclear disaster has any safety implications for storage at the country’s plants, a federal panel said. The U.S. government has struggled with how to manage the 65,000 tons of radioactive waste produced by its nuclear reactors over decades and stored throughout the country.
For more of this story Ayesha Rascoe, read here.
US and Philippines eye stronger defense ties
U.S. and Philippine officials are in talks about expanding bilateral military cooperation as the Southeast Asian country grapples with the growing assertiveness of China, officials from the two countries said. Talks with the Philippines, a U.S. ally which voted to remove huge American naval and air bases 20 years ago, follow Washington’s announcement of plans to set up a Marine base in northern Australia and possibly station warships in Singapore.
For more of this story by David Alexander and Manuel Mogato, read here.
U.S. congressman Frank to wed same-sex partner
Barney Frank, the 16-term congressman from Massachusetts who was one of the first openly gay figures in U.S. national politics, plans to marry his partner, his office said on Thursday. Frank, 71, will marry Jim Ready in a ceremony in Massachusetts, capping a nearly five-year relationship. Ready, 42, lives in Maine, where he has a small handyman business and practices photography, Frank’s office said.
For more of this story, read here.
For more stories from our Washington correspondents visit www.reuters.com and stay informed.
Photo Credits: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque (Panetta);