VIDEO: Udall questions Panetta in confirmation hearing

Thursday, during the Senate Armed Services Committee’s confirmation hearing on the nomination of Leon Panetta to head the Department of Defense, Senator Mark Udall sought answers from Panetta about his views on the future of the U.S. military’s role in the world in the face of budget cutbacks and the ongoing war on terror.

“You and I share a concern about the country’s fiscal trajectory,” Udall said to Panetta in his opening remarks. “I won’t support any cuts that would harm our capacity to secure our nation or the well-being of our troops, but we’re going to have to make some tough decisions—a broke country is a weak country.”

He asked Panetta about his commitment to save lives and billions of taxpayer dollars by reducing the military’s reliance on fossil fuel, and about how Pakistani safe havens are affecting the outcome in Afghanistan.

If confirmed, Panetta will take the reins of the DOD amid U.S. involvement in and subsequent troops pull-out from two wars abroad, conflicts in the Middle East and Northern Africa, and significant proposed cuts to the defense budget over the next decade. In his exchange with Panetta, Udall expressed his concerns about maintaining our country’s military effectiveness while securing the well-being of our troops, especially in light of factors that affect a resolution in Afghanistan, such as the safe havens that provide sanctuary for Taliban members who cross the border from Pakistan.

Udall said in a press release that he was pleased to note Panetta’s willingness to continue to develop ways for the military to take advantage of cleaner, safer energy. On June 8, Udall unveiled an updated Department of Defense Energy Security Act, in conjunction with Rep. Gabby Giffords’ office, to help reduce DOD fossil fuel consumption and advance smart-grid and renewable energy technology that would save lives and billions of taxpayer dollars.

Overall, The Boston Globe described the confirmation hearing as gentle and said it will be much easier to gain confirmation than to actually run the department.

Scot Kersgaard has been managing editor of a political newspaper, editor and co-owner of a ski town newspaper, executive editor of eight high-tech magazines (where he worked with current Apple CEO Tim Cook), deputy press secretary to a U.S. Senator, and an outdoors columnist at the Rocky Mountain News. He has an English degree from the University of Washington. He was awarded a fellowship to study internet journalism at the University of Maryland's Knight Center for Specialized Journalism. He was student body president in college. He spends his free time hiking and skiing.