Panetta suggests current service members may be spared from proposed pension cuts

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta speaks during an event at the National Defense University in Washington Aug. 16, 2011. AP Photo

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta speaks during an event at the National Defense University in Washington Aug. 16, 2011.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta speaks during an event at the National Defense University in Washington Aug. 16, 2011.
AP Photo

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Tuesday suggested that current service members might be spared some proposed deep cuts to the military's generous retirement plan .

CBS News reported Monday that the current military retirement system is a potential target for budget cutters and the Pentagon may begin offering a 401(k) style savings plan instead of the defined benefit plan now in place.

Asked about the report at a joint appearance with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Panetta said "no decisions have been made," but "you've got to look at everything on the table." Panetta was interrupted by applause from audience members at the National Defense University when he suggested current service members might be exempt from changes.

"You have to do it in a way that doesn't break faith...with our troops and with their families," he said, "if you're going to do something like this, you've got to think very seriously about grandfathering in order to protect the benefits that are there."

"So it wouldn't affect the people in this room," asked moderator Frank Sesno of George Washington University.

"Exactly..." answered Panetta who was then drowned out by applause.

"You know what they say about 'know your audience,'" quipped Sesno.

"I know my audience," answered Panetta.

Panetta said the Defense Business Board, which devised the military retirement proposal, would be issuing a more complete report later this month.

Any changes would ultimately require congressional approval.

  • Sharyl Attkisson On Twitter»

    Sharyl Attkisson is a CBS News investigative correspondent based in Washington.

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