Gates: Defense Cuts Must Be Prioritized, Strategic

WASHINGTON, May 24, 2011 — Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates said he is deter­mined that the depart­ment not fall vic­tim to the mis­takes of the past, “where the bud­get tar­gets were met most­ly by tak­ing a per­cent­age off the top of every­thing, the sim­plest and most polit­i­cal­ly expe­di­ent approach both inside the Pen­ta­gon and out­side of it.”

“That kind of ’sala­mi-slic­ing’ approach pre­serves over­head and main­tains force struc­ture on paper, but results in a hol­low­ing-out of the force from a lack of prop­er train­ing, main­te­nance and equip­ment — and man­pow­er,” Gates said dur­ing a speech at the Amer­i­can Enter­prise Insti­tute for Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Research here today. “That is what hap­pened in the 1970s — a dis­as­trous peri­od for our mil­i­tary — and to a less­er extent dur­ing the late 1990s.” 

In deliv­er­ing his last major pol­i­cy speech dur­ing his tenure as defense sec­re­tary, Gates laid out the department’s cost sav­ing ini­tia­tives over the past few years, and out­lined what he expects from a com­pre­hen­sive review he launched last week. 

Gates said the review should ensure that future spend­ing deci­sions are focused on pri­or­i­ties, strat­e­gy and risks, and are not sim­ply a math and account­ing exercise. 

“In the end, this process must be about iden­ti­fy­ing options for the pres­i­dent and the Con­gress, to ensure the nation con­scious­ly acknowl­edges and accepts addi­tion­al risk in exchange for reduced invest­ment in the Depart­ment of Defense,” Gates said. 

Gates said the analy­sis will include going places that have been avoid­ed polit­i­cal­ly in the past, such as re-exam­in­ing mil­i­tary com­pen­sa­tion lev­els, retire­ment, pay and pen­sions and spi­ral­ing health care costs. 

The review also will exam­ine force struc­ture — the military’s fight­ing for­ma­tions such as Army brigades, Marine expe­di­tionary units, Air Force wings, Navy ships and sup­port­ing avi­a­tion assets. 

“The over­ar­ch­ing goal will be to pre­serve a U.S. mil­i­tary capa­ble of meet­ing cru­cial nation­al secu­ri­ty pri­or­i­ties even if fis­cal pres­sure requires reduc­tions in that force’s size,” Gates said. 

“I’ve said repeat­ed­ly that I’d rather have a small­er, superbly capa­ble mil­i­tary then a larg­er, hol­low, less capa­ble one. How­ev­er, we need to be hon­est with the pres­i­dent, with the Con­gress, with the Amer­i­can peo­ple, indeed with our­selves, about what those con­se­quences are — that a small­er mil­i­tary, no mat­ter how superb, will be able to go few­er places and be able to do few­er things,” he said. 

Gates said that in con­sid­er­ing cuts, some assump­tions that his­tor­i­cal­ly have been used to guide defense fund­ing should be questioned. 

For exam­ple, the assump­tion behind most mil­i­tary plan­ning since the end of the Cold War has been that the Unit­ed States must be able to fight two major region­al wars at the same time. 

“One might con­clude the odds of that con­tin­gency are suf­fi­cient­ly low, or that any erup­tion of con­flicts would hap­pen one after the oth­er, not simul­ta­ne­ous­ly,” the sec­re­tary said. “What are the impli­ca­tions of that with respect to force struc­ture, and what are the risks? One can assume cer­tain things won’t hap­pen on account of their appar­ent­ly low probability. 

“But the ene­my always has a vote,” Gates added. 

Still, those are the kinds of sce­nar­ios the depart­ment and U.S. offi­cials need to con­sid­er, he said. 

“If we are going to reduce the resources and the size of the U.S. mil­i­tary, peo­ple need to make con­scious choic­es about what the impli­ca­tions are for the secu­ri­ty of the coun­try, as well as for the vari­ety of mil­i­tary oper­a­tions we have around the world if low­er pri­or­i­ty mis­sions are scaled back or elim­i­nat­ed,” Gates said. 

Amer­i­can needs to under­stand that a small­er pool of forces could mean greater impacts on troops and fam­i­lies, should the Unit­ed States find itself in anoth­er pro­tract­ed war. 

“To shirk this dis­cus­sion of risks and con­se­quences — and the hard deci­sions that must fol­low — I would regard as man­age­r­i­al cow­ardice,” Gates said. 

In the end, the sec­re­tary said, the tough choic­es ahead are about the kind of role the Amer­i­can peo­ple — accus­tomed to unques­tioned mil­i­tary dom­i­nance for the past two decades — want their coun­try to play in the world. 

“Since I entered gov­ern­ment 45 years ago, I’ve shift­ed my views and changed my mind on a good many things as cir­cum­stances, new infor­ma­tion, or log­ic dic­tat­ed. But I have yet to see evi­dence that would dis­suade me from this fun­da­men­tal belief — that Amer­i­ca does have a spe­cial posi­tion and set of respon­si­bil­i­ties on this plan­et,” Gates said. 

“I share Win­ston Churchill’s belief, that ‘The price of great­ness is respon­si­bil­i­ty … [and] the peo­ple of the Unit­ed States can­not escape world respon­si­bil­i­ty.’ This sta­tus pro­vides enor­mous ben­e­fits — for allies, part­ners, and oth­ers abroad to be sure, but in the final analy­sis the great­est ben­e­fi­cia­ries are the Amer­i­can peo­ple, in terms of our secu­ri­ty, our pros­per­i­ty, our free­dom,” Gates said. 

Gates acknowl­edged that after a decade of con­flict, the Amer­i­can peo­ple are tired of war. 

“But there is no doubt in my mind that the con­tin­ued strength and glob­al reach of the Amer­i­can mil­i­tary will remain the great­est deter­rent against aggres­sion, and the most effec­tive means of pre­serv­ing peace in the 21st cen­tu­ry, as it was in the 20th,” he said. 

Source:
U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

More news and arti­cles can be found on Face­book and Twitter.

Fol­low GlobalDefence.net on Face­book and/or on Twit­ter

Team GlobDef

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist GlobalDefence.net im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. GlobalDefenc.net war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →