Gates proposes major defense cuts that will cost jobs

Defense Secretary Robert Gates (AP)

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Monday that tough economic times require that he shutter a major command that employs some 5,000 people around Norfolk, Va., and begin to eliminate other jobs throughout the military.

The announcement was the first major step by Gates to find $100 billion in savings in the next five years. Gates says that money is needed elsewhere within the Defense Department to repair a force ravaged by years of war and to prepare troops for the next fight.

Gates and other Pentagon officials would not put a dollar figure on cuts outlined Monday, but the savings is expected to be less than what the individual military services are trying to trim on their own.

Big cuts are essential considering the straitened economy and the likelihood that Congress no longer will give the Pentagon the sizable budget increases it has enjoyed since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Gates said.

The political backlash was swift and fierce from lawmakers fearful that jobs would be lost in their districts.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican, said in a hastily called news conference that eliminating Norfolk’s Joint Forces Command would deal a devastating blow to the state at a time of runaway federal spending on lower priorities.

Likewise, Republican Rep. J. Randy Forbes called the decision “further evidence of this administration allowing its budget for social change” and the “piecemeal auctioning off of the greatest military the world has ever known.”

Democrats, including Sens. Mark Warner and Jim Webb of Virginia, also condemned the move. Warner said he could see “no rational basis” for eliminating a command created to improve the services’ ability to work together and find efficiencies.

“In the business world, you sometimes have to spend money in order to save money,” said Warner.

In a Pentagon press conference, Gates was optimistic that Congress would eventually swing behind his plan despite lawmakers’ control of the budget. He said in the case of Virginia, the state could wind up with additional jobs if the savings found by closing Joint Forces Command enables a boost in shipbuilding.

Eliminating the command would take the backing of President Barack Obama. Obama applauded the overall belt-tightening in a statement Monday but did not mention JFCOM or two smaller offices set for closure.

“The funds saved will help us sustain the current force structure and make needed investments in modernization in a fiscally responsible way,” Obama said. “Change is never easy.”

Gates described his initiative as just the beginning in his hunt for inefficiencies across the Defense Department, which commands a nearly $700 billion annual budget including war spending.

“The department must start setting priorities, making real trade-offs and separating appetites from real requirements,” Gates said.

Gates vowed to review every corner of the budget, including the military’s rising health care costs.

“There are no sacred cows,” Gates said.

Besides shutting down Joint Forces Command, Gates wants to:

• Trim by 10 percent the budget for contractors who support the Defense Department;

• Freeze the number of employees working for his office, defense agencies and combatant commands for the next three years; and

• Cut at least 50 general and flag officer positions and 150 senior civilian executive positions over the next two years.

Savings from closing Joint Forces Command will be offset by the cost of shifting some jobs and roles elsewhere, Gates said.

The command, which holds more than 1 million square feet of real estate in Suffolk and Norfolk, Va., lists its mission as training troops from all services to work together for specific missions. It tries to make sure equipment used by different services works together and looks for gaps in capabilities within military services that could be filled by a specially trained joint force.

The command is headed by a four-star military officer, the highest grade currently in use. Marine Gen. James Mattis was its commander until named last month to replace Army Gen. David Petraeus as head of U.S. Central Command. His replacement will be Gen. Ray Odierno, now the war commander in Iraq. Odierno’s job will be to eliminate his own office, officials said.

The plan Gates outlined was similar to one suggested last month by the Defense Business Board, a panel of company executives who advise the Pentagon. The panel identified Joint Forces Command as contributing to much of the contractor bloat because it had more contractors than government employees on its payroll.

__

Associated Press writer Bob Lewis in Richmond, Va., contributed to this report.

___

Online:

Defense Department: http://www.defense.gov/

U.S. Joint Forces Command: http://www.jfcom.mil/index.htm

Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press

Enhanced by Zemanta

15 Responses to "Gates proposes major defense cuts that will cost jobs"

  1. Keith  August 10, 2010 at 12:08 pm

    You can bet your bippy this is NOT going to go down easy for the Virginia Congressional delegation. After all, the average US Congressperson’s idea of “government waste” is a dollar spent in someone else’s district.

    Clearly, with some 5 percent of our GDP on the line, the US must continue to have an “enemy” so as to justify our continued output of bombs, planes, tanks and ships. And when we don’t have an enemy…and as we have seen with the trumped up wars in Iraq and now Afghanistan…we simply manufacture one.

    Our newly found “enemy” now consists of numerous Bedouins who wander around in faraway deserts and camp out in tents and caves and whose leader (if he is even still alive) drags along a dialysis machine with him. So far, our satellites that are supposedly able to read a license plate from space have been consistently unable to find him. Could it be that to capture him deprives our leaders with that “enemy” they do desperately need to keep our ever-expanding defense industry humming along?

    All of this nonsense is now collectively called the “war on terror”, and, since the fall of the Soviet Union, we’ve been waging it with increasing amounts of blood and treasure DESPITE the fact that more people die in the United States each year from simply falling out of bed than die in “terror attacks”.

    Indeed, the “Military Industrial Complex” that President Eisenhower once cautioned us all against has now morphed into the “Terrorist Industrial Complex”.

    To me, this self-made monster has now become the REAL “enemy” of our country’s long-term health…a largely uncontrolled, self-sustaining, scarce resource devouring institution that’s now become FAR more dangerous than any Bedouin living in a tent in a faraway desert.

    • griff  August 10, 2010 at 12:28 pm

      Well said. I like the “government waste” line. Nice.

  2. Carl Nemo  August 10, 2010 at 12:49 pm

    Well said Keith. I must say that most of what you write makes me think that you and I are one when it comes to analyzing the order of the day and calling it right… : )

    Both of these unwinnable wars on drugs and terror are a canard to allow the now ‘TIC’ (Terrorist Industrial Complex) to bleed the American taxpayer white until the 12th of forever…!

    There’s no one to parley; ie., to sign a peace accord in order to cease the hostilities, so they are never-ending planetary level “police actions” against two nouns. Our military has devolved into a very deadly, route step, SWAT team; ie., simply cops along with their leadership having gone bad. We’re no longer welcome anywhere in the world. The USA has become a planetary nuisance and a deadly one at that.

    Carl Nemo **==

  3. Kent Shaw  August 11, 2010 at 5:33 am

    So here we are. The Dept of Defense is certainly bloated beyond belief, and we are in the middle of at least two useless, needless wars. But to cut back on all of it will hurt many people whose livelihoods depend on war. What do we do? And how?

    • Carl Nemo  August 11, 2010 at 12:29 pm

      That’s the problem with a warfare/welfare state Kent. Governments only spend money, but do not create wealth.

      Congress has enabled the massive outsourcing of our manufacturing infrastructure. The U.S. produces little or nothing when it comes to everyday consumer goods. We are a supplier of raw materials, food products and the weapons of war. We’ve simply become a dumping ground for Chinese, Indian and a host of other countries’ products with America being reduced to a consumerist “feedlot”.

      So yes, we are in a bind when a goodly portion of our economy now depends on jobs as a function of endless, “police” actions across planet earth while maintaining over 700 bases worldwide.

      We can continue to do what we do and crater our nation into the ground or someone at the top might have the foresight to turn this ship about and bring manufacturing back to our shores. There won’t be a host of high paying, union based jobs, but at least there will be something for America’s greater population to produce. As it is we are ‘toast’…!

      Will this happen? It’s unlikely because the destruction of our country by our elected leaders guided by their shadowy corporate sponsors seems irreversible at this point in time. Grave, terminal damage has been done to America by knaves in high places.

      Carl Nemo **==

      • Kent Shaw  August 11, 2010 at 1:23 pm

        Agreed. We continue as we are until we totally crash. If we stop our economic dependence on warfare we crash. We are toast either way.

        One thing that might help is ending the “strong dollar policy” and allow the dollar to devalue against other currencies. A weaker dollar makes imports more expensive but it makes our exports more attractive and might stimulate production of goods in the US. Of course it would make oil prohibitively expensive so we hit another wall. If we’d go with massive investment in green power in order to get off oil combined with a “weak” dollar we might make progress. Of course this is all off the top of my head and I’m sure I’m overlooking other pitfalls. Toast again… I am glad I’m getting old (60) because I, selfishly speaking, will not see the worst of things to come — unless of course the nuclear warmongers get their way with Iran. Toast, yet again.

        • Kent Shaw  August 11, 2010 at 1:24 pm

          The funds for green energy alternatives would come from greatly reduced military expenditures and the PTB of course will have nothing to do with that. More toast.

      • Almandine  August 11, 2010 at 1:43 pm

        Interesting, Carl, your juxtaposition of “Governments only spend money, but do not create wealth”… with “someone at the top might have the foresight to turn this ship about and bring manufacturing back to our shores” but “It’s unlikely because the destruction of our country by our elected leaders guided by their shadowy corporate sponsors seems irreversible” and anyway, “There won’t be a host of high paying, union based jobs, but at least something…”

        Those, to me, are non-sequitars in any analysis of our plight. Yes, govts spend as much money as they can grab, and thus it behooves pols to keep the revenue (taxes) flowing. However, those “shadowy” corp types do not need pols to “allow” them to move their businesses anywhere they wish. They move to maximize profit opportunity, since their motive is to maximize dividends for their investors. Thus, since cheaper labor elsewhere brings greater returns than those high-paying union jobs here, they move away – improving their bottom lines – and reducing our tax revenue correspondingly. A corollary to their opportunity-seeking is that our pols can’t stop them from moving elsewhere… this remains a free country at present… unless they outlaw or tax such “vagabond” corps heavily. At some point those corps then move away completely – taking all taxes elsewhere.

        Pols who wish to stay in office believe they need largesse (revenue) to distribute to their constituents, which is in direct conflict with corps (taxes) heading elsewhere. (Thus, the apparent non-sequitar.) They also need to keep their constituents employed, which you have noted is no longer happening as we would like. As a consequence, welfare payments, unemployment compensation, health care charges, etc, skyrocket, demanding greater amounts of revenue to keep the populace – not the corps – from going ballistic. Thus, they bring on the Keynesian economists and bankers, who justify and promote “free money” to keep it all afloat, at least until that becomes impossible.

        At some point (already passed) the “progressive” pols begin to think as you have… let’s rein in those corp bastards, let’s stop the outward flow of production capacity, let’s nationalize whatever industries we need to so that we can keep the jobs (more revenue)… i.e., let’s save our political hides by creating a collective that can also save our heads. Never mind that it’s all based on the free money that becomes more worthless by the very actions they have taken to “save us.” We become a Robin Hood society.

        Bottom line? Unless and until we can compete again with the rest of the world business and labor force, we will continue to decline. There can be no protectionist solution… that only drives costs upward and eliminates both jobs and employers, unless of course you want to go the way of the Russia and China, both of which have seen the light of day and have embraced the capitalist model we once were. Freedom is moving their way as we descend into the morass they are rising from.

        Yessiree Uncle Bob… chains we can believe in.

  4. woody188  August 11, 2010 at 3:02 pm

    Why don’t we close bases in Japan, Germany, or any where else?

    I bet we could find 5,000 positions to liquidate overseas and keep people employed here. At least then China’s borrowed money that we’ll be paying back with interest would still be spent within the USA, giving it a chance to stay here, even if half or more returns to China via Wal-mart.

  5. Carl Nemo  August 11, 2010 at 5:18 pm

    As a final thought. Our government spends more on defense than 44 other nations on earth combined with China and Russia included in the count. Evidently these gross expenditures are necessary because “we’ve met the enemy and he is us”. / : |

    Carl Nemo **==

    • Almandine  August 11, 2010 at 9:52 pm

      Carl – I took a shot in rebuttal to Harold and yourself in Doug’s “District Work Period” piece, particularly with regard to the concept of greed and how it relates to our overlords, er oligarchs. My thesis is that theirs is a vision of the world in which they have leveraged the USA and its people in support of world harmony as they, of course, define it… bringing peace and productivity to us all. PNAC, I think they have called it, and more. Unfortunately, we become the serfs in that play.

      I rightly described it as their vision, not mine or perhaps Harold’s or yours, if for no other reason than I (and you) must give up my own rationality to exist in their collective paradise. Individual goals will not be tolerated.

      The military mis-adventures you bemoan are in direct support of this mission… you know – no pain, no gain, and besides, “Our subjects will all feel better when we get these “growing pains” behind us and the New World Order is a done deal.” (Hack… as I’ve heard it said.)

      I do hope Carl that you, I, and our longtime friends-in-thought get back to the erudite musings we put out a couple years ago and more… when we didn’t just yada, yada, yada for yada’s sake, but gave serious analyses that were worth the effort of both writing and reading. We’ve lost much of that lately, devolving mostly into mere cataloging of the sorry state we find our country in.

      Maybe it’s just this latest, increasingly anonymous, more drive-by-oriented version of CHB that constrains erudition, but whatever the reason, I think we’d do well to dissect the problems in search of solutions instead of incessantly whining.

      Cheers, my friend.

      • Carl Nemo  August 12, 2010 at 1:02 pm

        Hi Almandine,

        “Governments only spend money, but do not create wealth.” …extract from my post

        “Those, to me, are non-sequitars in any analysis of our plight.” …extract from reply

        Your reference to my comment being non sequitur somewhat surprises me on your behalf. Government spending is based on the acquisition of money via tax revenues. Granted government spending puts money back into local economies that produce the weapons and materiel for war, but it’s functioning as a closed, entropic loop; ie, “We the people” feeding upon ourselves without bringing wealth to our nation from abroad by trading in the world marketplace as China, India, Malaysia and other nations that are booming as a function of the goods and services that are produced. Selling high tech weapons of war to nations of questionable loyalty to us makes no sense at all unless one is a scriptwriter in the bowels of the CIA creating endless planetary social psychodrama; ie., fomenting wars and discontent for the shadowy oligarchs’ benefit. Any perceived societal success as a function of government spending is an illusion for the most part, excluding public works, with no good as an outcome in the long run and we as a nation are now at the end of said “long run”; ie, seemingly headed for the ash bin of history. : |

        Carl Nemo **==

        • Almandine  August 12, 2010 at 1:06 pm

          Hi Carl -

          My comment had to do with the relationships among all 4 of your quotes, not just the direct implications of the one. I agree with you completely regarding govt spending, per se. Glad to hear from you.

        • Keith  August 12, 2010 at 7:26 pm

          Carl, you’re absolutely correct.

          While it IS true that supporting the”Terrorist Industrial Complex” keeps people employed, the activity’s ultimate purpose has always been to kill people and break things.

          Now, granted, our politicians toss around such vague concepts as “national security” and “defending the homeland” while trying to justify these obscene expenditures.

          But again, I fail to see how the activities of a bunch of Bedoins in caves and tents in a faraway desert rises to the level of putting our “national security” in jeopardy. And, any way you cut it, dropping million dollar cruise missiles on people in tents and caves can only be described as a gross misuse of taxpayer dollars.

          I often shudder to think of all the thousands of miles of crumbling infrastructure in our country that could be beautifully repaired (not to mention upgraded) if the brains and hands now producing all that sophisticated weaponry were actually put to use in producing something of lasting value for our nation.

          For example, think of what a Trillion dollars’ worth of investment in our nation’s railroads would do to the transportation system of our country? Eventually, we could whiz from coast to coast to coast in comfort via high-speed rail, and completely do away with all those homeland security goon squads now stationed at our airports…you know…those people who seem to derive great joy in coming up with new and innovative ways to look up every orifice of our bodies when we walk by.

          At least, when it was all over, we’d actually have something concrete to show for these obscene expenditures of blood and treasure besides some big holes in the ground (and a lot of dead people) in a foreign land that most Americans still can’t spell correctly.

          • Carl Nemo  August 12, 2010 at 8:38 pm

            Amen…!

            Carl Nemo **==

Comments are closed.