WASHINGTON — Changing some processes in the Defense Department has required his personal attention, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said today, but he added that he believes those changes are on their way to becoming part of how the Pentagon works.
The secretary told the Senate Appropriations Committee’s defense subcommittee that one frustration with his job has been that the Defense Department “is organized and structured to plan for war, but not wage war.”
Gates has personally intervened to focus the department’s attention on programs that benefit today’s warfighters, such as mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles; more intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets; and more processes and technologies to counter roadside bombs.
The secretary told the senators he has had to form ad hoc task forces to confront these problems, “where I chair them and essentially have all of the senior players, both uniformed and civilian, at the table and to be able to force the kind of rapid action that has been necessary to support those in the field.”
Now, he added, that mindset is changing.
“In several of these areas, I think that the work has reached a point where I think I can begin to take actions to begin to return these efforts to … where they would traditionally have a bureaucratic home,” he said.
But for the long term, the secretary said, this remains a serious issue in the Defense Department.
“One [problem] that I have not yet found the answer to [is] to get urgent action in an area supporting men and women in combat today that ranges across the entirety of the department, both uniformed and civilian and all the different defense agencies,” he said.
Balancing the capabilities needed to confront the threats of today versus future dangers is another aspect Gates said he must confront.
“If you took a broad look at our budget, about 50 percent of our procurement budget is for what I would call long-term modernization programs to deal with near-peer countries,” he said. “About 40 percent is dual-purpose, like C-17s and other things we will use no matter what kind of conflict we’re in, and about 10 percent has actually been for irregular or the kind of asymmetric warfare we’ve been talking about.”
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)