USA — Department United on Budget Needs, Gates Says

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)

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