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Panetta's farewell message: US needs to remain vigilant

February 13, 2013 02:24 IST

United States is still facing some severe challenges like terrorism and cyber security and needs to be prepared to confront them wherever they are, outgoing US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said Tuesday.

"Looking to the future, we have to stay vigilant, because we are going to face some severe challenges in the future. We're continuing to be in a war in Afghanistan for a while still. We've got to confront violent extremism wherever it is.

"We still are confronting a war on terrorism, and we've got to be prepared to confront them wherever they are," Panetta told Pentagon employees in his farewell address.

If confirmed by the Senate, Panetta would be succeeded by former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel.

"We've got the threat of cyber security, cyber warfare, which is a real threat in our times and can literally threaten to paralyse the country. That's a real threat. Cyber security is something we've got to really be concerned about because it is the weapon of the future," he said.

"We're going to have to deal with weapons of mass destruction and their proliferation. We're going to have to continue to deal with rogue states like Iran and North Korea. We just saw what North Korea has done in these last few weeks, a missile test and now a nuclear test.

"They represent a serious threat to the United States of America, and we've got to be prepared to deal with that," he said.

"We also face the challenge of rising powers in Asia and elsewhere, continuing turmoil in the Middle East.

"If we're going to achieve progress in these areas, we depend on your skill; we depend on your determination to make our military the strongest and the most respected in the world," Panetta said.

Panetta said the national defence in the United States needs the partnership and support of the Congress.

 "This is a partnership operation in a democracy, and as you know, because our leaders in Washington have not yet resolved the key budgetary issues facing our country, we are facing a period of budget uncertainty that threatens across-the-board cuts in defense and in domestic programs," he said.

Observing that America's military strength is not just measured by its capacity to defeat aggressors or topple regimes with advanced technology, he said one of its greatest strengths is its ability to partner with other nations to uphold American values abroad and to sustain American leadership across the world.

"We are the strongest military power in the world. The world needs our leadership. The world leads -- needs the United States of America to lead the world towards peace and towards prosperity," he argued.

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