USA — Gates Stresses Need for Special Operations Funding

ANNAPOLIS, Md., April 7, 2010 — Get­ting spe­cial oper­a­tions forces a seat at the defense bud­get table has been a pri­or­i­ty since he took office, Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates told mid­ship­men at the U.S. Naval Acad­e­my here tonight.
Gates explained his ratio­nale dur­ing a ques­tion-and-answer ses­sion fol­low­ing a speech he gave as part of the academy’s For­re­stal Lec­ture series. 

When he came to the Pen­ta­gon in Decem­ber 2006, the sec­re­tary said, he faced two prob­lems. The first was that the Pen­ta­gon is an insti­tu­tion designed to plan for a war, not to wage one. 

“I did­n’t know where to go in the Pen­ta­gon to find peo­ple who were com­ing in to work every day say­ing, ‘What can I do to help the warfight­er be suc­cess­ful today?’ Gates said. “The oth­er chal­lenge was how do I get the guys who are in the wars today a place at the table when it comes to allo­cat­ing the bud­get? It was­n’t how big was their place going to be, it was how do we get them to the table at all?” 

About 10 per­cent of the pro­cure­ment defense bud­get is for irreg­u­lar war­fare, Gates said, while 50 per­cent is devot­ed to future con­flicts and the remain­ing 40 per­cent is for “dual-capa­ble” equip­ment that will be used for any range of conflict. 

“So the strug­gle was not how to equal­ize the irreg­u­lar-war­fare guys and the future-threats guys,” he said. “It was just how do I get the irreg­u­lar [war­fare] guys to the table in the first place?” 

Vir­tu­al­ly all of the U.S. Spe­cial Oper­a­tions Command’s bud­get when he took office was in sup­ple­men­tal fund­ing, Gates said, and he want­ed to make it part of the department’s base bud­get to ensure spe­cial oper­a­tions forces would get the fund­ing they need once sup­ple­men­tal fund­ing was no longer forth­com­ing. It was impor­tant, he said, to insti­tu­tion­al­ize fund­ing for intel­li­gence, sur­veil­lance and recon­nais­sance capa­bil­i­ties, which are used in the full range of con­flict, and espe­cial­ly in coun­terin­sur­gency operations. 

“So this is all about how we can get all of the play­ers to the table so that we have the full range of capa­bil­i­ties to deal with the threats and the chal­lenges that the coun­try is going to face over the next sev­er­al decades,” he said, not­ing that six months before they hap­pened, no one pre­dict­ed the con­flicts in which the Unit­ed States has engaged since the Viet­nam War. 

“Nobody pre­dict­ed even in July of 1990 that by Decem­ber we would have a half mil­lion troops in Sau­di Ara­bia,” he said. “Nobody pre­dict­ed that we would be engaged in Grena­da or Haiti or Pana­ma or the Balka­ns or Soma­lia. So I have to build a force that has the range of capa­bil­i­ties to han­dle all of these chal­lenges and has the flex­i­bil­i­ty to deal with them all at the same time.” 

Repeat­ing that 50 per­cent of defense pro­cure­ment spend­ing goes toward far-term, more sophis­ti­cat­ed chal­lenges, Gates told the mid­ship­men that he’s not short­chang­ing the future. “I just want to get the guys who are in the bat­tle today to the bud­get table so that we can make the invest­ments that we need to win.” 

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

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