Gates Throws Down Gauntlet On Military Spending: 'The Gusher Has Been Turned Off'


This is going to inflame so many groups, I can't even imagine that anything will actually get done. It'll be good if Gates actually pulls it off, but I wonder if he can:

ABILENE, Kan. — Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates challenged some sacrosanct Pentagon spending practices in a speech on Saturday, directing both military and civilian officials to find cuts in their overhead and operating costs and then transfer the savings to the fighting force.

In the speech, given on the 65th anniversary of the World War II victory in Europe, Mr. Gates said the Pentagon was wasting money it will no longer get, and he focused on targets as diverse as the cost of military health care, the large number of generals and admirals and the layers of bureaucracy involved just to send a dog team to Afghanistan.

“The attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, opened a gusher of defense spending that nearly doubled the base budget over the last decade,” Mr. Gates said. “Military spending on things large and small can and should expect closer, harsher scrutiny. The gusher has been turned off, and will stay off for a good period of time.”

Mr. Gates, a carry-over cabinet member from the Bush administration, has already canceled or trimmed several dozen weapons programs, with long-term savings predicted at $330 billion. Now he is looking for complementary cuts across the Defense Department’s civilian and military bureaucracies, the overseas headquarters and their operating costs.

The goal is to convert as much as 2 percent or 3 percent of spending from “tail” to “tooth” — military slang for support services and combat forces. The money is “needed to sustain American’s combat power at a time of war and make investments to prepare for an uncertain future,” he said.

While this may not seem like a significant savings in the Pentagon’s base budget, which stands just below $550 billion for next year, cuts of any size are certain to run hard against entrenched constituencies.

Mr. Gates said the nation owed quality health care to those in uniform, their families and veterans, but pointed out that members of the military health care system have not been charged increases in premiums for 15 years — even though the program’s annual cost has risen to $50 billion from $19 billion a decade ago.


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