Gates to military: Curb runaway spending

Defense Secretary Robert Gates

Defense Secretary Robert Gates told the U.S. military on Saturday it must rein in spending that he called out of sync with today’s tough economic times, and said budget woes could be a factor in deciding whether to use force against Iran and others.

Promising to play a hands-on role in wringing out savings, Gates held out the possibility of axing headquarters, merging whole agencies and culling the officer corps, taking on entrenched interests sure to put up a fight.

Sticker shock from wars in Afghanistan and Iraq also mean President Barack Obama and Congress may be more cautious about committing U.S. forces to another costly military engagement, he said.

“I do think that as we look to the future, particularly for the next couple of years or so while we’re in Iraq and Afghanistan, I think the Congress and the president would look long and hard at another military operation that would cost us $100 billion a year,” Gates told reporters.

“If there’s a real threat out there, the president and Congress will spend whatever it takes to protect the nation. But in situations where there are real choices, I think this would be a factor,” he added.

Asked if Iran fell into the category where costs would be a factor in deciding whether to strike over its nuclear program, Gates said it was unclear. “It depends on developments over the next year or two,” he said.

Gates said his goal was to cut overhead in the Defense Department’s nearly $550 billion baseline budget between two to three percent, or $10 billion to $15 billion per year, starting in fiscal 2012. The savings would allow the Pentagon to sustain force levels and free up funds for modernization programs.

Without such savings, Gates said, “it is highly unlikely that we will achieve the real growth rates necessary to sustain the current force structure.”

The budget warning was widely seen as part of stepped up efforts by Gates to define his legacy as Pentagon chief.

The venue Gates chose to deliver his message was the presidential library of Dwight D. Eisenhower, who warned about a “military-industrial complex” in a January 17, 1961, farewell speech.

‘ROOT-AND-BRANCH’ CHANGES

High unemployment and a record $1.4 trillion budget deficit are among the toughest domestic challenges Obama faces and could dim prospects for his Democratic Party in congressional elections in November.

Gates said the military spending “gusher” sparked by the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States “has been turned off.” He cited America’s “difficult economic circumstances and parlous fiscal condition.”

Gates’s call for “root-and-branch” changes and his questioning of whether the current number of headquarters, flag-officers and commands were necessary could trigger a struggle with groups that have major clout in Congress.

Jacques Gansler, who served as the Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer from 1997 until 2001, said Gates’ biggest hurdle may be winning over members of Congress who are liable to say: “‘We all want to make savings but not in my district.’”

Gansler said the secretary’s goal of saving 3 percent was doable through efficiencies such as greater competition for contracts, streamlining computer systems and easing requirements that half of all maintenance work on U.S. weapons systems be done at U.S. government depots.

“We’ll get this done,” Gates said, promising to spearhead a review to reduce wasteful spending and slash bureaucratic overhead. But it is unclear how long Gates will remain in the job to follow through on what he acknowledged would be a “long-term process.”

Gates already has angered some vested interests by persuading Congress to cut, kill or limit a number of big-ticket military programs, including Lockheed Martin Corp’s premier F-22 fighter. On Monday, he again questioned the need for a projected $13.2 billion landing-craft program for the Marine Corps. The so-called Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle is to be built by General Dynamics Corp.

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3 Responses to "Gates to military: Curb runaway spending"

  1. Carl Nemo  May 9, 2010 at 1:48 pm

    Actions will speak louder than words Secretary Gates! We’ve been hearing this for years while this out of control behemoth that postures as our national defense mechanism is virtually devouring our nation.

    I know so first hand. Two of my brothers, both retired officers started their contracting companies and do fabulously well. They aren’t part of the crooked cabal, but the stories that I’ve been privileged to hear the details would make a taxpayer want to wretch over the rail.

    Granted social service programs consume an inordinate amount of wastage too; ie., SS, Medicare, Medicaid. The government needs to be cleaned up across the board with an intensely implemented austerity program. Just ferreting out the waste, graft and corruption across all agencies with an intense commitment to do so would conservatively save a half trillion per annum with little impact on the programs themselves other than curtailing waste and fraud.

    Here’s a link to an article from 2002 with the ‘good’ Secretary whining about waste and unaccountability. No doubt there’s double booking entries; i,e, accounting errors etc., but the waste exists big time. Halliburton among many others are poster children corporations for engaging in such activity.
    I suggest readers view the online documentary “Iraq for Sale”. It’s a sobering expose’ of that which I speak.

    http://www.wanttoknow.info/corruptiongovernmentmilitary

    On another current link it was mentioned that 100 million dollars are booked per annum just for air travel !? Contractors and active duty personnel are constantly flying here and there for face to face meetings that accomplish little to nothing other than providing a sightseeing trip along with after hours fun and games. One of my brothers logged 3.2 million commercial air miles during his 28 years in the Air Force. With modern day video conferencing capabilities which can be encrypted, there’s absolutely no reason for this ongoing unethical, criminally disposed nonsense.

    It’s soon coming to an end because the U.S. is headed the pathway of Greece and other deadbeat nations on earth that have borrowed far more than can ever repay. Lenders of both first and last resort are already fleeing the exits, knowing they are going to get stiffed by the U.S. when all this profligacy
    comes tumbling down. Then will the ‘good’ Secretary or his future replacement be standing on a street corner pandering for a buck or two for another war…”hey bud can you spare some change”…? / : |

    Carl Nemo **==

  2. Carl Nemo  May 9, 2010 at 1:54 pm

    Correction: The provided 2002 link references then Secretary Rumsfeld discussing monumental waste with Secretary Gates being referenced in the article starting in 2006. Regardless the “beat goes on”.

    Carl Nemo **==

  3. woody188  May 10, 2010 at 9:32 pm

    Tell Gates he find his funding in Iraqi oil. Oh, Bush lied about that too, well maybe Bush should pay for it. Seize his assets and pay some troops.

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