Posts Tagged: Defense Secretary


I hope Secretary of Defense Robert Gates writes a serious memoir after he retires.  He might explain why he’s been targeting the Future Combat Systems program, designed to digitalize the infantry experience and use technology for more precise attacks on the enemy.  The reason described in Christopher Drew’s piece in the New York Times is practical — Gates, says Drew, has voiced concerns that new hi-tech vehicles "would not provide enough protection against simple roadside bombs that have killed soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan."

Drew shows how weapons systems — futuristic or not — can lose their relevance after design is completed and production starts.  The combat vehicles Gates nixed were supposed to be light and easily transportable, but after IEDs became the norm in Iraq, the manufacturers added tons of armor — making the vehicles "less easy to transport and weakening the rationale for the project."

But the rationale for ever-more advanced weapons systems has always been weak.  Technological omnipotence is impossible to obtain — as IEDs and suicide bombers have made clear — and the desire for it masks another one, from defense contractors, which is to keep tax dollars flowing their way.  The simple dynamic of getting ever more fancy stuff and then wanting to try it out has been a constant in American life for decades, and some in the military establishment seem prey to this consumerist drive.  I’m wondering if there’s more to Gates’s objections to Future Combat Systems than is captured in the press. -NH