The national debt is the single biggest threat to national security, according to Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Tax payers will be paying around $600 billion in interest on the national debt by 2012, the chairman told students and local leaders in Detroit.
"That's one year's worth of defense budget," he said, adding that the Pentagon needs to cut back on spending.
"We're going to have to do that if it's going to survive at all," Mullen said, "and do it in a way that is predictable."
He also called on the defense industry to hire veterans and become more robust in the future.
"I need the defense industry, in particular, to be robust," he said. "My procurement budget is over $100 billion, [and] I need to be able to leverage that as much as possible with those [companies] who reach out [to veterans]."
Mullen highlighted the unity of purpose between the government and industry as well, in working to solve national security issues.
"I have found that universally, [private-sector workers] care every bit as much about our country, are every bit as patriotic and wanting to make a difference ... as those who wear the uniform and are in harm's way," he said.