The Department of Defense is preparing a new five-year defense budget that would cut as much as $260 billion from the current plan, according to defense secretary Leon Panetta.

Speaking at a media roundtable after meeting with his South Korean counterpart, Panetta told reporters that DoD is preparing a new five-year budget plan (to be released next February with the FY2013 budget) “that would represent around 250 (billion of dollars) or 260 billion (dollars) of the 450 billion (dollars) that we’re required to reduce.”  The president originally directed $350 billion in cuts to security budgets over 10 years.  Since then, Secretary Panetta has said DoD is planning to reduce the defense budget by $450 billion through 2021.

Panetta did not list any specific cuts, but said that he and the service chiefs have been “looking at all the areas to determine where those savings can be achieved.”  He did, however, identify four areas that they are considering for reductions.

He said DoD needs to get better efficiencies in its operations by reducing duplication and overhead.  DoD will try to implement many of the recommendations that former secretary Bob Gates made, Panetta said.

The secretary told reporters that DoD is taking a hard look at compensation to “determine what savings, what reforms can be implemented in that area.”  Recently, Senate Armed Services chair Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) and Ranking Republican Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) advised the Joint Select Congressional Committee on Deficit Reduction to consider ways to reform the current military compensation system.

Panetta said DoD is reviewing the weapons modernization program and acquisition reform to find savings.  He said working to “improve the contracting process and to look at the weapons systems that we have in order to make sure that they are in keeping with the kind of force that we’re going to have.”

The fourth area the secretary mentioned is force reductions.  Panetta said that “clearly we’re going to have a smaller force.”  He observed that current withdrawal plans for Iraq and Afghanistan would enable some force reductions.  He described that smaller force as being more agile and flexible to meet current and emerging threats.  But, he assured reporters that the decisions he and the service chiefs make will “keep the United States the best military in the world.”