The Defense Department (DOD) is abandoning its push for wide-scale base closures in the continental United States, focusing instead on plans to draw down military installations overseas, Secretary Leon Panetta announced Monday.

“I had no illusions that [base closures] would be an easy sell politically, but we had a responsibility … to put everything on the table,” Panetta said in a speech at the annual conference of the Association of Defense Communities in Monterey, Calif. “It is now clear that there will not be a round of [closures] authorized in 2013.

Beginning in 2005, previous base closures ordered by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) netted DOD roughly $8 billion in savings, according to Panetta. But each round proved to be a politically painful battle, the defense chief noted.