Fiscal crisis, budget battle mark Leon Panetta's tenure
After 19 months at the helm of the world's largest military, Panetta may go down in history as the CIA director who got Osama bin Laden. But his time in the Pentagon came at a critical moment _ dominated by the nation's fiscal crisis and an endless struggle to protect the defense budget from billions of dollars in automatic spending cuts that he has repeatedly likened to a meat ax.
For President Barack Obama, Panetta's experience as a congressman and as budget director in the Clinton administration made him the perfect choice to take on Capitol Hill as the fiscal cliff loomed. So for the last year and a half, Panetta has cajoled, convinced and at times castigated lawmakers in his effort to protect the defense budget.
Lawmakers “just got to suck it up and take on some of the risks,'' Panetta told soldiers at a stop in Vincenza, Italy, during the trip. He said he tells lawmakers, “I've got men and women in uniform that put their lives on the line in order to fight for this country _ you can have a small bit of the courage they have to do what you have to do.''
The budget battle has eaten up much of his time, even as he oversaw the military's
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