2 Jun

Defense Sec'y Gates' exit U-turn: warns of downgraded US military under Obama budget cuts

                                       

Frank Gaffney at Breitbar's Big Peace, has been following Robert Gates' last days as Obama's Sec'y of Defense. The round of speeches by Gates in the past days has many – including Gaffney – scratching their heads, as he solemnly warns against the ““hollowing out” of the military” in what can only be construed as johnnie come lately criticism for Obama's plan to cut the defense budget by an additional $400 billion by 2023.

This would be the same Sec'y of Defense who had his spokesman say he backed the plan just a month ago, but that the specifics of the slashing would fall to his successor. Or was that just lip service by a dutiful appointee, and former AF officer who recognizes respect for the chain of command? Because it seems Gates was somewhat miffed at Obama's announcement of the cuts, and by the fact he only found out about the CiC's decision to do so 24 hours before Obama took to the podium.

The positive WH spin on the cuts is that the budget is higher than Bush's “average” annual defense spending (without including actual prosecution of the wars), and erroneously suggests that since Gates had already cut $400 bil in waste, that Obama was quite sure he could do it again. It matters not that this POTUS turns a blind eye to the simmering pot that is the Middle East, that he daily forces our military to do more with less – and with technology that is decades old – or that three active war theatres are taking it's toll on existing inventory.

The Obama FY 2012 budget submission reduced the total increase only slightly – by $162 billion over the four years from 2017 to 2020, according to the careful research of the Project on Defense Alternatives (PDA). That left an annual average base military spending level of $564 billion – 23 percent higher than Bush’s annual average and 40 percent above the level of the 1990s.

Central to last week’s chapter in the larger game was Obama’s assertion that Gates had already saved $400 billion in his administration. “Over the last two years,” he said, “Secretary Gates has courageously taken on wasteful spending, saving $400 billion in current and future spending. I believe we can do that again.”

The $400 billion figure is based primarily on the $330 billion Gates claimed he had saved by stopping, reducing or otherwise changing plans for 31 weapons programs. But contrary to the impression left by Obama, that figure does not reflect any cut in projected DOD spending. All of it was used to increase spending on operations and investment in the military budget.

Apparently, in suggesting that Gates could “do that again”, Obama was taking for granted he had the support of his outgoing Defense Sec'y. But the resignation date is turning out to be a liberating moment for Gates because, instead, he's singing like the canary who finally found his voice. And the birdsong is that the Obama cuts lie outside the realm of reconciling today's military realities and a healthy national defense capability… and requires the US agrees to downgrade their military dominance voluntarily.

This means the Obama administration and Congress must now decide how much military power the U.S. should give up, how that fits U.S. goals for maintaining global influence, and how to pay for it, Gates said.

“A smaller military, no matter how superb, will be able to go fewer places and be able to do fewer things.”

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“The tough choices ahead are really about the kind of role the American people — accustomed to unquestioned military dominance for the past two decades — want their country to play in the world,” Gates said.

“They need to understand what it could mean for a smaller pool of troops and their families if America is forced into a protracted land war again — yes, the kind no defense secretary should recommend anytime soon, but one we may not be able to avoid.”

That Gates may have been caught unaware of the CiCs intent on stripping US military capabilities might be most evident by the AFA's notes about two Gates' speeches in March.. just a month before Obama's surprise axe fell on the Pentagon budget. At that time, the budget was on track for modernizing our military branches' arms and air force. Chief of Staff, General Schwartz estimated a replacement rate of 200 aircraft per year to make modest reductions in the average age of the aircraft fleet, and at that time, the budget was well with range, projecting 227 purchases instead of the original 114….

…. at least for a short time, that is.

As Gaffney points out in his Big Peace article, Gates can hardly play the victim here, despite his newly found voice.

But, welcome as his alarm is, the course is one Mr. Gates has largely charted himself.

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Mr. Gates’ warnings about the Obama agenda are indeed welcome. One can only wish he had done less to enable it to date, and pray that he does not make matters worse still before leaving office four weeks from now.

What Gaffney refers to is Gates own record on the military budget under this administration. This is the same Defense Sec'y who cancelled the Army's Future Combat Systems program and the Air Force's Next-Generation Bomber and replaced them with a shaved down bomber program, and set the Army to work on a new Ground Combat Vehicle instead…the latter of which has experienced more delays, stops and redesigns than it has shown in progress.

F-22 Raptor flies over Fort Monroe

Michael Goldfarb's latest for the Weekly Standard Magazine also weighs in on the politics of defense spending, and Gates' own contributions to gutting the military, including slashing the Navy down to it's smallest size since WWI, cutting Army and Marine personnel by 47,000, and cutting further production of the F-22 Raptor stealth air to air fighter [pictured to the right], and attempted to rescue the more expensive, lagging in production and troubled budget problems of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter instead.

[Mata Musing: for a comparison of performance and cost between the F-22 and F-35, see the Air Force Association's presentation.]

This same Gates also cancelled the Marines Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV) program because it has become too expensive.

On the flip side, this is the very same Gates who witnessed, first hand, the risks of gutting military defense as Reagan's Deputy Director of Intelligence, and then Deputy Director of Central Intelligence. He knows all too well the effort and cash it takes to rebuild a military.

In fact, the Defense Secretary spoke in glowing terms of Reagan as both CiC and POTUS in a Nov 2009 speech at the Library of Congress.

Gates called Reagan “the ultimate Cold Warrior.” The new president’s first job was to restore America’s military strength. “A broad U.S. defense build-up began early in the Reagan administration, with more advanced planes, ships, submarines, combat vehicles and nuclear weapons added to America’s arsenal,” Gates said during his speech.

And Reagan wasn’t afraid to use this new American power. Libya challenged American naval might in the Mediterranean Sea with the “Line of Death” at the Gulf of Sidra. In 1981, Reagan sent two aircraft carriers across the line, and Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi sent two fighters to challenge the American ships. \

“Big mistake,” Gates said. Under Ronald Reagan’s new, aggressive rules of engagement, two F-14 Tomcats splashed the two Libyan fighters.”

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But Reagan was not simply an ideologue. “President Reagan also had the insight, the sense of historical moment, to know when it was time to sheathe the sword, soften the tone and re-engage – even with our most implacable enemy,” Gates said.

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“He made it clear that we did not value the ICBMs, tanks, or warships in and of themselves. They were negotiable,” the secretary said. “No, the West’s differences with the East – the democracies’ dispute with communism – was, he said, ‘not about weapons, but about liberty.

~~~

Still there are lessons to be learned, and first among them is the appeal of freedom – political, economic and spiritual. “And the idea that free men and women of different cultures and countries can, for all the squabbling inherent in democracy, come together to get the big things right, and make the tough decisions to deter aggression and preserve their liberty,” Gates said.

Each generation must make this choice, he said. “It is a sad reality that in our time and in the future … there will be those who seek through violence and crimes to dominate and intimidate others,” Gates said. “We saw this on (/11, and we see it today in Afghanistan, where more perseverance, more sacrifice and more patience is required to prevent the terrorists who attacked us from doing so again.

“We see it anywhere nations, movements or strongmen are tempted to believe the United States does not have the will or the means to stand by our friends, to meet our commitments and to defend our way of life,” he continued.

President Reagan knew this inherently, Gates said. “Ronald Reagan was a great president who acted and planned, but most importantly, who dreamed and believed,” the secretary said. “And he truly accomplished great things.”

This does not sound like a man, dedicated to slashing military capabilities when our nation is involved in three theatres overseas and may, if Chuck Devore's predictions of a coming war against Israel in just a couple of months come to fruition, be needed to stand at Israel's side against the so called “democracy” results of Arab spring.

Considering Gates' accommodations for defense program slashes, expensive delays in ramping up new production of future weaponry, listening to his talking points on exiting the Obama cabinet makes you want to ask… will the real Robert Gates please stand up?

There's two points I need to lay out straight here in my beliefs about spending and our debt/deficits. There is federal spending I support, and nothing is more important than the Constutitonal mandate than to provide for the common defense and maintain a military to protect our borders. If the choice is between military defense – only about 20-25% of the budget – and the liberal penchant for entitlement programs, well… buh bye entitlements. The second is that only a fool would believe we could cure our debt and spending problem by squeezing the Pentagon, and downgrading our military superiority.

That said, spending is a problem and there is certainly room for debate in deciding wise spending when modernizing our defense, which includes what programs, weaponry and vehicle are better suited for 21st Century combat arenas. Whether Gates, with his minimal military service, is best equipped to make those decisions, I don't know. Panetta, with only two years of Army under his belt and a lifetime of political servitude is even less qualified to make those choices, IMHO. But it was just months after the above speech, extolling Reagan, that Gates taunted Congress and the House Appropriations Committee in a July 2009 Chicago speech for rejecting his suggested budget cuts, saying:

“If the Department of Defense can’t figure out a way to defend the United States on half a trillion dollars a year, then our problems are much bigger than anything that can be cured by buying a few more ships and planes.”

Apparently, even a Democrat majority House recognized the political leanings of the CiC in office, and the danger of his choices of “saving the economy” at the expense of the nation's safety.

For whatever Gates' reasons for being Obama's willing lackey, prior to joining other bodies under the bus after the recent Obama surprise defense cut announcement, one cannot ignore the message he gives in parting. And in doing so, we have to consider what the Defense Department considers the nation's greatest threat.

Both Donald Rumsfeld and Gates have focused on reviving and revamping an aging US arsenal of weapons, air and naval force, and vehicles for the newest style of combat and post 9/11 threats. Gates has been tasked with either continuing, or discontinuing programs begat under his predecessor.

As an April 2006 Popular Mechanics article about advanced military weaponry points out, the Pentagon has been divided into two camps about just who our “foes” are. Under Bush and Rumsfeld, more emphasis was placed on the Quadrennial Defense Review, what was called “the Long War” against the global Islamic jihad movement threat. In this plan, Afghanistan and Iraq are potentially only the first two theatres. If one considers Obama's unofficial, and possibly illegal, engagement in Libya, the third has already been added.

The much-maligned Donald Rumsfeld may appear to fall into the “Long War” camp. He, like Gates, spent his six years of Defense Department service believing our military should be restructured for 21st Century warfare, as can best can be exemplified with his on the money comment, “As you know, you go to war with the Army you have. They're not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time.” Considering the negative press that ensued, perhaps Rummy should have said, “we go to war with the Army that Bill Clinton and the GOP Congress left us after the 90s Camelot years of fantasy”. But I digress…

Rummy not only poured money into the now off the radar missile defense program that originated under Reagan, he also focused on a ground force that had to be better equipped for the new battle theatres we faced.

Rumsfeld became a champion of the idea that the American military had to change itself–from an array of heavy, plodding forces to a reconfigurable collection of lighter, quicker, better-networked units. Every vehicle, every commander, every drone and every grunt would eventually be connected to a wireless Internet for combat, under the doctrine known alternatively as “revolution in military affairs” or “force transformation.” By sharing so much information, U.S. forces would be able to make decisions lightning-fast, outmaneuvering and outwitting any foe. Missions that used to take countless thousands of soldiers could be accomplished with a few wired-up troops, the theory went.,

But Rumsfeld wasn't willing to abandon the growing threat of the second foe that was of more import to the other Pentagon camp – China growing military power.

Those that are purists to the Chinese threat in the Pentagon consider Iraq, Afghanistan and the global Islamic jihad movement not only a waste of time, but a “distraction”. To counter the Chinese, the US military needs superior fighter planes, like the F-22 and F-35 above, to combat the new Chinese stealth fighter, the J-20.

Gates appears to be following the “both are foes” path of Rumsfeld, and not the “either/or”path that the Pentagon purists would prefer. His attempts to advance the US stealth fighters, combined with the ground vehicle contracts… even if unsuccessful… indicate he finds both of strategic value to a well-rounded US military in today's rocky world.

Just one year ago, he was hinting that Chinese anti-ship technology may render our carriers useless. This made him backtrack on cuts that affected advancements in our naval forces.

Tho the official Pentagon view under Gates considers an increasingly capable Chinese military as an advantage in guarding sea lanes and controlling piracy – a task that lands primarily in US hands – Gates was greeted in Bejing this past January with not only Chinese dignitaries, but a demonstration of the J-20. [Pictured left]

“When we talk about a threat, it’s a combination of capabilities and intentions,” said Abraham M. Denmark, a former China country director in Mr. Gates’s office. “The capabilities are becoming more and more clearly defined, and they’re more and more clearly targeted at limiting American abilities to project military power into the western Pacific.”

“What’s unclear to us is the intent,” he added. “China’s military modernization is certainly their right. What others question is how that military power is going to be used.”

Mr. Denmark, who now directs the Asia-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security in Washington, said China’s recent strong-arm reaction to territorial disputes with Japan and Southeast Asian neighbors had given both the Pentagon and China’s neighbors cause for concern.

Within days of his first exposure to the J-20 Chinese stealth fighter, Gates was also warning that North Korea's threat was increasing, stating they were within five years of developing intercontinental ballistic missiles.

One thing is for certain. Gates is out, and July ushers in Leon Panetta, who is likely to be another of Obama's dutiful puppets, happily swinging the axe. So while we may be confused as to Gates' vacillating performance under this administration, we would be extremely foolhardy to ignore his final words of warning.

“More perhaps than any other Secretary of Defense, I have been a strong advocate of soft power—of the critical importance of diplomacy and development as fundamental components of our foreign policy and national security,” Mr. Gates said at Notre Dame. “But make no mistake, the ultimate guarantee against the success of aggressors, dictators and terrorists in the 21st century, as in the 20th, is hard power—the size, strength and global reach of the United States military.”

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About MataHarley

Vietnam era Navy wife, indy/conservative, and an official California escapee now residing as a red speck in the sea of Oregon blue.
This entry was posted in Barack Obama, Economy, Military Budget. Bookmark the permalink. Thursday, June 2nd, 2011 at 3:00 am
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