Gates warns of ‘hol­low­ing ef­fect’ of de­fense cuts

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics - BY BILL GERTZ

Out­go­ing De­fense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates, who cut ma­jor weapons pro­grams dur­ing 4 1/2 years at the Pen­tagon, is warn­ing against “hol­low­ing out” the U.S. mil­i­tary through un­wise spend­ing cuts planned by the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion.

“I am de­ter­mined that we not re­peat the mis­takes of the past, where bud­get tar­gets were met mostly by tak­ing a per­cent­age off the top,” Mr. Gates said in a speech to a con­ser­va­tive think tank on May 24.

“That kind of salami-slic­ing ap­proach pre­serves over­head and main­tains force struc­ture on pa­per, but re­sults in a hol­low­ing out of the force from a lack of proper train­ing, main­te­nance and equip­ment, and man­power.”

A sim­i­lar slash­ing of de­fense spend­ing in the 1970s was “a dis­as­trous pe­riod for our mil­i­tary and, to a lesser ex­tent, dur­ing the late 1990s,” Mr. Gates told a gather­ing at the Amer­i­can En­ter­prise In­sti­tute.

He said im­prop­erly cut­ting force size also could pro­duce a “hol­low­ing ef­fect” that would limit the mil­i­tary’s global reach, not­ing “a smaller mil­i­tary, no mat­ter how su­perb, will be able to go fewer places and be able to do fewer things.”

The United States, Mr. Gates said, has “a spe­cial po­si­tion and set of re­spon­si­bil­i­ties on this planet.” Quot­ing Win­ston Churchill, he said the price of great­ness is re­spon­si­bil­ity, and the peo­ple of the United States can­not es­cape world re­spon­si­bil­ity.

To coun­ter­act the 2007-08 eco­nomic re­ces­sion, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion sin­gled out the mil­i­tary for sharp spend­ing cuts, Mr. Gates said.

De­fense spend­ing and force cuts are ex­pected as the mil­i­tary strug­gles to re-equip and mod­ern­ize forces weak­ened by wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, while fac­ing new and evolv­ing threats at a time of mount­ing fed­eral debt and aus­ter­ity, Mr. Gates said.

Pres­i­dent Obama an­nounced April 13 that, as part of the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ef­fort to re­duce the fed­eral deficit, na­tional se­cu­rity spend­ing would be cut by $400 bil­lion over 12 years. Most of the cuts will come from the Pen­tagon, which has an an­nual de­fense bud­get of about $530 bil­lion, Mr. Gates said.

The de­fense chief said the pres­i­dent’s plan and an­other deficit-cut­ting plan that would trim de­fense spend­ing by $1.3 tril­lion have trig­gered de­bate on “the size, use and cost” of mil­i­tary forces and “the ap­pro­pri­ate role of the United States in the world.”

The re­al­ity is that “ab­sent a cat­a­strophic in­ter­na­tional con­flict or a new ex­is­ten­tial threat, we are not likely to re­turn to Cold War lev­els of de­fense ex­pen­di­tures, at least as a share of na­tional wealth, any­time soon,” Mr. Gates said.

Ed­ward Tim­per­lake, a for­mer Pen­tagon tech­nol­ogy se­cu­rity of­fi­cial, said Mr. Gates’ com­ments were sur­pris­ing be­cause of the

Mr. Gates said im­prop­erly cut­ting force size could pro­duce a “hol­low­ing ef­fect” that would limit the mil­i­tary’s global reach, not­ing “a smaller mil­i­tary, no mat­ter how su­perb, will be able to go fewer places and be able to do fewer things.” The United States, he said, has “a spe­cial po­si­tion and set of re­spon­si­bil­i­ties on this planet.” Quot­ing Win­ston Churchill, he said the price of great­ness is re­spon­si­bil­ity, and the peo­ple of the United States can­not es­cape world re­spon­si­bil­ity.

de­fense cuts he al­ready im­posed.

“He’s al­ready hol­lowed Air Force by cut­ting F-22 and other pro­grams,” Mr. Tim­per­lake said.

As de­fense sec­re­tary, Mr. Gates shifted U.S. mil­i­tary weapons de­vel­op­ment to­ward fight­ing coun­terin­sur­gency war­fare, based on the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. In his speech, he said his pri­or­ity was to meet “ur­gent bat­tle­field needs,” in­clud­ing med­i­cal care and equip­ment, ar­mored ve­hi­cles and in­creased spy­ing, in­clud­ing more drone air­craft.

Crit­ics have dubbed Mr. Gates’ de­fense strat­egy as a fo­cus on pre­par­ing to fight “Gen. Custer-type conflicts,” af­ter the ill-fated In­dian fighter of the 19th cen­tury, while not pre­par­ing enough for po­ten­tial, large-scale con­ven­tional wars against states like China, a resur­gent Rus­sia and Iran.

Over the past two years, Mr. Gates capped, can­celed or ended more than 30 de­fense pro­grams, in­clud­ing the Air Force F-22 fighter and the Army’s Fu­ture Com­bat Sys­tem of manned and un­manned ve­hi­cles. An air­borne anti-mis­sile laser also was killed.

The de­fense sec­re­tary said vi­tal pro­grams that must be built are a new aerial re­fu­el­ing tanker fleet and some 2,000 F-35 fight­ers, which are be­hind sched­ule and over bud­get. Other ur­gent arms pro­grams in­clude lon­grange strike weapons, mod­ern­ized nu­clear weapons, war­ships, a new mis­sile sub­ma­rine class, cy­ber­war­fare, in­tel­li­gence sys­tems and ground forces.

“So as we move for­ward, un- less our coun­try’s po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship en­vi­sions a dra­mat­i­cally di­min­ished global se­cu­rity role for the United States, it is vi­tally im­por­tant to pro­tect the mil­i­tary mod­ern­iza­tion ac­counts,” he said.

Mr. Gates, de­fense sec­re­tary since De­cem­ber 2006, is sched­uled to leave of­fice at the end of June. His com­ments on May 24 marked the third time in the span of a week that he has spo­ken out about con­cerns that the White House will launch harsh mil­i­tary spend­ing cuts.

CIA Di­rec­tor Leon E. Panetta has been nom­i­nated to be the next de­fense sec­re­tary. He was White House chief of staff dur­ing the Clin­ton ad­min­is­tra­tion, when Repub­li­cans charged that its de­fense poli­cies were lead­ing to a hol­lowed-out force.

The Pen­tagon also is de­bat­ing whether to be­gin pro­grams de­signed to bet­ter pre­pare for deal­ing with the grow­ing mil­i­tary threat from China. Some of­fi­cials op­pose a ma­jor re­struc­tur­ing, while many in the mil­i­tary say new weapons are needed ur­gently to pre­pare to counter any hos­til­ity from China.

In a sep­a­rate de­vel­op­ment, the White House on May 24 threat­ened to veto a pend­ing de­fense au­tho­riza­tion bill over a pro­vi­sion that would limit the pres­i­dent’s au­thor­ity to re­duce the U.S. nu­clear arse­nal.

The White House said it op­poses lan­guage in the bill that would pro­hibit dis­man­tling nu­clear weapons un­der the New Strate­gic Arms Re­duc­tion Treaty un­til the ad­min­is­tra­tion re­ports to Congress its plans for nu­clear arms mod­ern­iza­tion.

The White House also op­poses pro­vi­sions in the bill that would re­vive plans for an al­ter­nate en­gine for the F-35 and that would limit trans­fers to for­eign coun­tries of de­tainees at U.S. Naval Base Guan­tanamo Bay, Cuba.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

De­fense Sec­re­tar y Rober t M. Gates speaks at the Amer­i­can En­ter­prise In­sti­tute for Pub­lic Pol­icy Re­search in Wash­ing­ton on May 24. “I am de­ter­mined that we not re­peat the mis­takes of the past, where bud­get tar­gets were met mostly by tak­ing a per­cent­age off the top,” he said.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.