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Excerpts of Gates' Speech

Yesterday in Chicago, Secretary of Defense Gates gave an important and well-reported speech about the current state of play for his defense budget and what Congress is doing to it. The F-22 was a focus, but his remarks were broader. They might have been even broader, and perhaps even more strenuous, if he had been aware of what the House Appropriations Committee, under the leadership of its pork-crazed and under-investigation chairman—John Murtha, D-Pa.,—was doing to expand Congress' undoing of Gates' April 6 decisions.

Link to Defense Secretary Gates' Speech

Some excerpts that people might find useful follow bellow. (I have bolded some some particularly cogent statements.)

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, July 16, 2009:

"... we must break the old habit of adding layer upon layer of cost, complexity, and delay to systems that are so expensive and so elaborate that only a small number can be built, and that are then usable only in a narrow range of low-probability scenarios."

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"We also had to take a hard look at a number of weapons programs that were grotesquely over budget, were having major performance problems, were reliant on unproven technology, or were becoming increasingly detached from real world scenarios—as if September 11th and the wars that followed had never happened."

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"First, there is the Congress, which is understandably concerned, especially in these tough economic times, about protecting jobs in certain states and congressional districts. There is the defense and aerospace industry, which has an obvious financial stake in the survival and growth of these programs.

And there is the institutional military itself—within the Pentagon, and as expressed through an influential network of retired generals and admirals, some of whom are paid consultants to the defense industry, and some who often are quoted as experts in the news media.

As a result, many past attempts by my predecessors to end failing or unnecessary programs went by the wayside. Nonetheless I determined in a triumph of hope over experience, and the president agreed, that given the urgency of the wars we are in, the daunting global security environment we will inhabit for decades to come, and our country's economic problems, we simply cannot afford to move ahead with business as usual."

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"Having said that, the F-22 is clearly a capability we do need - a niche, silver-bullet solution for one or two potential scenarios—specifically the defeat of a highly advanced enemy fighter fleet. The F-22, to be blunt, does not make much sense anyplace else in the spectrum of conflict. Nonetheless, supporters of the F-22 lately have promoted its use for an ever expanding list of potential missions. These range from protecting the homeland from seaborne cruise missiles to, as one retired general recommended on TV, using F-22s to go after Somali pirates who in many cases are teenagers with AK-47s—a job we already know is better done at much less cost by three Navy SEALs. These are examples of how far-fetched some of the arguments have become for a program that has cost $65 billion—and counting —to produce 187 aircraft, not to mention the thousands of uniformed Air Force positions that were sacrificed to help pay for it."

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"But more to the point, we all—the military, the Congress, and industry—have to face some iron fiscal realities.

The last defense budget submitted by President George W. Bush for Fiscal Year 2009 was $515 billion. In that budget the Bush administration proposed—at my recommendation—a Fiscal Year 2010 defense budget of $524 billion. The budget just submitted by President Obama for FY 2010 was $534 billion. Even after factoring inflation, and some of the war costs that were moved from supplemental appropriations, President Obama's defense request represents a modest but real increase over the last Bush budget. I know. I submitted them both. In total, by one estimate, our budget adds up to about what the entire rest of the world combined spends on defense. Only in the parallel universe that is Washington, D.C., would that be considered "gutting" defense."

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The grim reality is that with regard to the budget we have entered a zero-sum game. Every defense dollar diverted to fund excess or unneeded capacity—whether for more F-22s or anything else—is a dollar that will be unavailable to take care of our people, to win the wars we are in, to deter potential adversaries, and to improve capabilities in areas where America is underinvested and potentially vulnerable. That is a risk I cannot accept and I will not take.

And, with regard to something like the F-22, irrespective of whether the number of aircraft at issue is 12 planes or 200, if we can't bring ourselves to make this tough but straightforward decision—reflecting the judgment of two very different presidents, two different secretaries of defense, two chairmen of the joint chiefs of staff, and the current Air Force Secretary and Chief of Staff, where do we draw the line? And if not now, when? If we can't get this right—what on earth can we get right? It is time to draw the line on doing Defense business as usual. The President has drawn that line. And that red line is a veto. And it is real."

Winslow Wheeler, Director, Straus Military Reform Project, Center for Defense Information at the Project On Government Oversight

By: Winslow Wheeler
Director, Straus Military Reform Project, CDI at POGO, POGO

Mr. Wheeler's areas of expertise include Congress, the Defense Budget, National Security, Pentagon Reform and Weapons Systems

The goal of the Straus Military Reform Project is to secure far more effective military forces and much more ethical and professional military and civilian leadership at significantly lower budget levels.

We would like to thank Philip A. Straus Jr. and family for their generous support.

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