Gates Talks Pentagon Reform with American Legion

MILWAUKEE, Aug. 31, 2010 — Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates solicit­ed sup­port for his ini­tia­tive to reform the Pen­ta­gon at the Amer­i­can Legion’s nation­al con­ven­tion here today, telling a very friend­ly crowd that the Unit­ed States can­not afford a peace div­i­dend.

“As a coun­try, his­tor­i­cal­ly, we have a trou­bling, pre­dictable pat­tern of com­ing to the end of a con­flict, con­clud­ing that the nature of man and the world has changed for the bet­ter, and turn­ing inward – uni­lat­er­al­ly dis­arm­ing and dis­man­tling insti­tu­tions impor­tant to our nation­al secu­ri­ty,” Gates said.

The Unit­ed States thought World War I was “the war to end all wars.” An Army approach­ing 3 mil­lion sol­diers van­ished and on the eve of World War II, the Unit­ed States could have matched up against Yugoslavia or Roma­nia, but not a major pow­er.

Rather than learn­ing a les­son, the Unit­ed States went from an Army of more than 10 mil­lion at the end of World War II, to rough­ly 5 mil­lion – with most in gar­ri­son duty. The result was a scram­ble to build the forces for the Kore­an War.

The same occurred at the end of Korea, Viet­nam and the Cold War. “When war comes again, we have had to rebuild and rearm, at huge cost of blood and trea­sure, most recent­ly after Sep­tem­ber 11th,” Gates said.

The U.S. mil­i­tary received all it asked for in the months and years after the attacks on the World Trade Cen­ter in New York and the Pen­ta­gon. The mil­i­tary trans­formed itself from a cum­ber­some, but dead­ly, machine, to a lithe, pre­cise and dan­ger­ous enti­ty capa­ble of defend­ing against a range of threats.

But there is already talk of reap­ing anoth­er peace div­i­dend when the fight­ing in Iraq and Afghanistan end. “It is crit­i­cal­ly impor­tant mov­ing for­ward that we not repeat that mis­take again,” Gates said.

Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma has pledged a small real growth in the Defense Depart­ment bud­get of between 1 per­cent and 2 per­cent a year. But that will not be enough to reset the forces and to con­tin­ue to grow and nur­ture the capa­bil­i­ties that the mil­i­tary needs to defend the coun­try, Gates said. Essen­tial­ly, he said, the depart­ment needs anoth­er 1 per­cent of 2 per­cent real growth for the nation to be safe.

“To make the case for this growth at a time of eco­nom­ic and fis­cal duress requires the Defense Depart­ment to make every dol­lar count – to fun­da­men­tal­ly change the way we do busi­ness,” Gates said. “It means shift­ing resources from bureau­cra­cies and over­head to the com­bat capa­bil­i­ties need­ed today and in the future.”

Gates tasked the ser­vices to find $100 bil­lion in sav­ings over five years. That mon­ey could be repro­grammed to meet more press­ing needs. Essen­tial­ly, the sec­re­tary declared war on exces­sive spend­ing, dupli­ca­tion and over­head costs. He has agreed to close the U.S. Joint Forces Com­mand among oth­er cost sav­ings.

The sec­re­tary said the resilient and coura­geous men and women in uni­form deserve the best sup­port their coun­try can pro­vide. “Our troops have more than done their part, now it’s time for us in Wash­ing­ton to do ours,” he said. “I will do every­thing in my pow­er to make sure that we live up to our solemn oblig­a­tions – for the safe­ty of our coun­try, for the well-being of our troops.”

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

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