Panetta to Service Members: ‘You Will Get What is Promised to You’

Kristina Wong/ABC News

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta had some strong words for men and women of the military today:

“We made a promise and I intend to keep it.”

As the Defense Department considers how and where to make budget cuts to meet the over $450 billion it has been asked to make, military officials have been trying to assure service members that their retirement pay and health benefits will not be touched.

“We will stand by the promise made to you,” Panetta told a roomful of active-duty and retired service members Wednesday at the Association of the U.S. Army convention in Washington, D.C.

On Monday, Panetta spoke at the nearby Woodrow Wilson Center — warning members of Congress to work together to avoid “sequestration’ — a mechanism in the Budget Control Act that would cut the Defense Budget by additional hundreds of billions of dollars if members could not agree on $1.2 trillion in budget cuts.

Panetta called sequestration a “goofy meat-axe approach,” that would bring about “salami slicing cuts of the worst kind.”

He warned members of Congress not to drastically reduce the military force.

“It’s a mistake we made time and time again,” he said. ”It will not happen under my watch.”

Even so, he acknowledged the “steep rise in personnel costs,” and that the Army would draw down its numbers.

But he appealed to the military services to work together, and ”weather budget storms as a team.”

And he said that all those who have served and were promised benefits would receive them.

“You will get what is promised to you,” he said. “It is my duty.”