USA — Gates Describes Frustrations in Changing Processes

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)