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Panetta: Protect Readiness in 21st Century Force: The US military's readiness could be jeopardized if Congress does not take seriously the cuts and investment choices that the Defense Department leadership has made, especially in the areas of force structure and basing, said Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. "We have set priorities and made tough decisions to try to build the force of the future," said Panetta during a National Press Club speech in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 18. Pentagon officials carefully looked at areas from compensation to procurement to force structure during the Fiscal 2013 budget process in order to achieve savings, he said. Any attempt by Congress to force DOD to retain personnel and equipment that it seeks to cut would affect readiness, said Panetta. "Aircraft, ships, tanks, bases, even those that have outlived their usefulness, have a natural political constituency," he said. "Readiness does not," he added. It's too often sacrificed in favor of a "larger and less effective force," said Panetta, adding that he's determined to avoid this outcome. (Panetta transcript)