Panetta was born and raised in Monterey and still has his family home and walnut orchard in Carmel Valley. Last month, he went from CIA director to secretary of defense. Today was a homecoming, of sorts.
Panetta says he is closely monitoring the situation in Libya and is hopeful the Libyan people will take control of their future and support a stable government that respects human rights.
"The opposition forces have obviously made significant gains, but the situation obviously remains very fluid," said Panetta.
Panetta has recently indicated the drawdown in Iraq and Afghanistan is also fluid and the military can no longer assume all 46,000 American troops will be out of Iraq by the end of the year.
"We do it in a way that ensures that these countries are stable, that they are secure, and that they build on the sacrifices that have been made,"
On the issue of service, Panetta assured the crowd at the Naval Post Graduate School that he wants to keep the promises made to them about the military pensions they would receive when they signed up.
"He was asked a lot of tough questions," said Naval Post Graduate School Lt. Josh Anghichiod. "I've heard that he doesn't want to break faith with the people that are serving right now, and I think we all appreciate that as he is our senior leader."
With a resume that includes 16 years in Congress, head of the Office of Management and Budget, as well as CIA director, Panetta says Washington must now act responsibly to solve the $14 trillion debt crisis.
"I think we can implement fiscal discipline in a way that protects the national defense," said Panetta.
Panetta says that the current budget proposal calls for $500 billion to $600 billion in defense cuts, and if the congressional super committee does not come to an agreement, those defense cuts could double.