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Defense leaders head to Reagan Presidential Library for conference

Pentagon leaders and major military stakeholders are heading to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley on Saturday for a one-day conference to address the future of U.S. national defense.

From a national security perspective, it’s set to be a star-studded affair that's sure to draw fire from Pentagon critics.

The long list of people who have RSVP'd includes defense firm executives, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, former defense secretaries and former CIA directors Robert M. Gates and Leon Panetta.

Why did they sign on to attend? The invitations were sent by House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-Santa Clarita). The library is in his congressional district.

“I personally called them and asked them to attend,” he said. “I think it’s beneficial as a nation to sit down and discuss the difficult problems that we face in the years ahead.”

The Pentagon already faces budget cuts of $487 billion over 10 years and now must deal with the threat of an additional $500 billion in cuts related to sequestration. Currently, the military services are going through an unprecedented process of developing two budgets for 2015 -- one with sequestration and one without.

The Reagan National Defense Forum was nearly a year in the making, McKeon said.

Multiple panel discussions will be held throughout the day, including "Counterterrorism in 2025: What Kind of Fighting Force Will Be Required?," "The Industrial Base After a Decade of War and in an Era of Declining Budgets: Where Do We Need to Be in 2025?," "Congress, Industry and the Pentagon: Assessing the Relationship" and "What Should the Asia Rebalance Look Like in 2025?"

McKeon said the forum is focusing on 2025 because it’s more realistic to forecast rather than 25 to 50 years out.

“This isn’t a sci-fi convention,” he said. “We’re looking to find real solutions to real problems.”

The registration fee for the conference is $499 per person. Registration details and more information on the conference can be found here.


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