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Joe Kasper, a spokesman for House Armed Services Committee member Duncan Hunter, California Republican, asserted: “Mr. Hunter says no to defense cuts. But if any reductions make it into whatever agreement should come out of the negotiation, there will definitely need to be some type of analysis on potential impact to national security and global operations.

“National security needs to be viewed through a long-term lens. While it might be tempting to thin the defense budget in the interest of furthering discretionary budget savings, there are direct consequences with doing that.”

Said House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, California Republican: “Proposing to cut defense spending by nearly $500 billion in the coming decade without first conducting the necessary due diligence to determine what our nation’s basic defense requirements will be is an invitation to other countries to challenge America’s supremacy.”

In a political party lacking a national security star [the Pentagon has been run by Republican secretaries since the Clinton administration], Mr. Panetta emerged at CIA as a strong Democratic voice for defending America.

Mr. Panetta, who turns 73 on Tuesday, pushed his officers abroad to take risks in battling al Qaeda. In Washington, he argued for more aggressive airstrikes on terror suspects in Pakistan and Yemen.

It was Mr. Panetta’s CIA who found Osama bin Laden holed up in a walled compound in Pakistan, where Navy SEALs killed the al Qaeda leader.

Mr. Panetta begins work at a much larger institution. There are nearly as many workers at the Pentagon alone as the roughly 30,000 CIA officers and analysts. He will oversee 2.2 million uniformed active and Reserve troops and a complex, multibillion-dollar acquisition system.