OTTAWA, Canada, Jan. 27, 2011 — Civilian and military officials in the Defense Department are in complete agreement on the budget, and that bodes well for real fiscal change, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said in an interview yesterday.
A great many pushes to revamp DOD’s budgetary processes have taken place in the past, the secretary noted, and most have failed.
“One of the reasons that making these kinds of decisions on defense programs has been very difficult to make stick in the past is that often there were disagreements between the civilian leadership of the department and the uniformed services,” Gates said. “For the last two years while we’ve been going through this process, the leadership of the military services has been deeply integrated into this process.”
The department has incorporated these ideas, which “motivate and inform” the budget, he added.
For example, Gates said, the military chiefs proposed allowing the services to keep whatever money they save through efficiencies they identified to invest in higher-priority programs.
“I think that there is a strong constituency within the Department of Defense, including the military services, to actually effect the program that has been put together,” the secretary said, noting a unity of view between the department’s military leadership and civilian leadership.
“So when you have that kind of buy-in to the process and to the outcome of the process, … then I think the role of any one person becomes secondary,” Gates said, “because as an institution, the department is behind this and the services are behind it.”
Defense spending is not the culprit in the government’s deficit, Gates said. Except for some years in the late 1990s, he noted, defense spending today is as low a percentage of federal outlays as it’s been since before World War II — about 19.5 percent.
Put another way, he said, U.S. defense spending as a part of the gross domestic product in fiscal 2008 was only 4.3 percent.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)