Posts Tagged: Robert Gates

Charles Peters on the general size of the Army

One mistake Tea Partiers make when they rant about big government is that they fail to discriminate. Sometimes government is too big. (more…)

Military Leaders Keep Questioning ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

Another sign that the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy may be in its final stages. (more…)

Throwing Money In The Air

The Washington Post’s Dana Hedgepath gives one example out of control deficit spending — the Air Force says that its F-35 Joint Strike Fighter planes will be more expensive to build than originally anticipated and construction will be delayed two years. The Obama administration has already earmarked $11.4 billion “for an integral part of the military’s approach to waging war in the skies in the future.” Future, indeed: the planes won’t be ready until, optimistically, 2015.

No powerful Democrat or Republican in Washington, of course, is attacking the F-35 as an example of deficit spending. Barack Obama isn’t giving speeches saying that American families had to make cost-cutting sacrifices because of the recession and it’s time the Air Force did the same. If anything, the Air Force’s strongest critic is Defense Sec. Robert Gates who called the F-35′s delays “troubling,” has fired Air Force staff, and targeted Air Force programs in his calls for defense spending reform last year. But the Secretary of Defense is not going to question the cost-benefits of F-35 planes. In the executive branch, it is up to Obama and the Office of Management and Budget to push this issue. And they won’t — Obama only wants to freeze domestic spending.

Guess That’s It

Last year Defense Secretary Robert Gates made a splashy announcement about re-ordering the Pentagon budget: Gates wanted the DOD budget increased yet again (the budget has doubled since 2001), but wanted to shift money away from costly weapons programs that the military never actually uses. According to the Wall Steet Journal’s August Cole, this kinda assault on the military-industrial complex is now pretty much over.

What Gates has to show for his effort is that he successfully twisted Congress’s arm to reduce (but not eliminate) funding of the F-22 jet built by Lockheed Martin and also helped to eliminate an army modernization program lead by Boeing and SAIC. But there will not be a similar effort to take on Pentagon waste during this year’s budget talks. While domestic spending is capped in the name of the national deficit, the Obama administration is OK with letting a poorly scrutinized Pentagon budget escalate each year.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: Now What?

Christopher Beam had a good piece in Slate a couple of days ago that pointed out that it might take a while to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”:

…the military is taking its time. First, [Defense Sec. Robert] Gates is appointing a study group to figure out how best to implement the repeal if it’s passed. That means examining potential changes in Pentagon policies on benefits (say, if two men are married), base housing (can they live together?), fraternization (can they, er, hang out?), and misconduct. The study will also examine questions of whether or not gays in the military hurt “unit cohesion”—a phrase that became a rallying cry for DADT supporters when it was passed in 1993. That could take as long as a year. The military would then have another year actually to put the policy in place.

And this is assuming Congress actually passes the law repealing the policy. Which may be the trickiest part. Neither chamber has taken up a bill that would lead to repeal.

The testimony by Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen was, deservedly, a front page news: the two top military officials telling Congress that gays have the right to openly serve in the military. But the way the political system works is that the issue will likely fade from the headlines for months.

It will be up to members of Congress principled enough to take a stand for gay rights and savvy enough to write passable legislation to make DADT appeal a reality. It’s also up to Mullen, Gates, and Obama to keep the issue visible. The next time the president speaks out against DADT should be well before the next State of the Union.

Robert Gates’ Radical Idea To Get The Pentagon and Foggy Bottom To Cooperate

The Washington Post’s Mary Beth Sheridan and Greg Jaffe reports that Defense Sec. Robert Gates wants to merge together the Pentagon and State Departments responsibilities for nation-building in failing states like Somalia and Yemen:

The proposal would concentrate existing and new money in three long-term funds totaling as much as $2 billion. They would be dedicated to training security forces, preventing conflicts and stabilizing violence-torn societies around the world. The funds would exist separately from the war budgets, and allow for quicker and better-coordinated response to looming or actual conflicts, officials said.

In a memo to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Gates noted that the huge increase in Pentagon funding for stabilization efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan has prompted complaints about the militarization of U.S. foreign policy.

The proposal “sets forth a new approach that could transcend these debates. It argues for a new model of shared responsibility and pooled resources for cross-cutting security challenges,” Gates wrote in the unclassified Dec. 15 memo, which was obtained by The Washington Post.

It is hard to see, though, how a $2 billion program can transcend any national security debate. (more…)

The News Is There’s News About Hillary Clinton

In the new New Republic, Michael Crowley has a short, front-of-the-magazine piece on Sec. of State Hillary Clinton. The piece mainly tries to impute significance to Clinton’s verbal “gaffes” so far, i.e. comparing North Korea to an unruly teenager. Crowley less than compellingly concludes that such gaffes are a continuation of Clinton’s mistake-filled presidential campaign.

What was interesting, though, was that Clinton was being profiled at all. (more…)

On Permanent Standby: the Selective Service System

By Norman Kelley

With America deeply involved in two wars and with our troops spread all over the world, is it time to dust off the idea of a military draft?  Soldiers, sailors, and airmen and women are being sent back time and again to Middle East danger zones, with an increasing number of suicides attributed to the stress of these constant rotations.  All this is unfolding despite the existence of a massive list of possible replacements – the 14 million names collected and tracked by the U.S. Selective Service System (SSS).

Finding replacements through the Selective Service would mean reviving the draft, an idea that now sounds more like a distant echo of the 1960s than a real tool of U.S. policy.  Yet taxpayers are paying $24 million per year to keep the Selective Service System, and its 2000 draft boards around the country, at the ready in case of a draft.  When billions and trillions of dollars are the stuff of daily headlines, $24 million may not seem like much.  But is there any reason for the continued existence of the Selective Service System? (more…)


The New York Times’ Peter Baker and Elisabeth Bumiller report that Defense Sec. Robert Gates has warmed to U.S. Commander in Afghanistan Stanley McChrystal’s push for more troops. But how many more?

Although General McChrystal included no specific force proposals in his review, officials expect him to send a separate request in the coming weeks. Military strategists, including one who has advised General McChrystal, said he might offer three options. The smallest proposed reinforcement, from 10,000 to 15,000 troops, would be described as the high-risk option. A medium-risk option would involve sending about 25,000 more troops, and a low-risk option would call for sending about 45,000 troops.

Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary, cautioned that talk about troop levels was speculation. “Anyone who tells you that they know how many troops the commander is going to ask for and the options he may or may not present doesn’t know what he’s talking about, because that has not been determined yet,” Mr. Morrell said. He said that Mr. Gates had not made up his mind about what he would recommend to the president.

Mr. Gates could be the key adviser on this decision, and some military analysts predicted that he might recommend what Pentagon officials call the “Goldilocks option” — the medium-risk one in the middle. Because he was first appointed by President George W. Bush, Mr. Gates could provide political cover for Mr. Obama should the president reject the biggest possible buildup.

To assume the Goldilocks option, that’s 25,000 more troops on top of the 21,000 troop escalation the military will complete this fall. It defies common sense to push for another troop escalation before you’ve seen what the first, yet to be implemented, troop escalation will accomplish. And if this 21,000 troop increase is discredited before it’s happened, that doesn’t speak well about the consistency and purpose of the Obama administration’s long-term war strategy.

But even if A.) everything changed when McChrystal took charge and B.) McChrystal might have a point and Gates is wise to listen to him, the Goldilocks options creates a situation where U.S. troops are spread absurdly thin. There are still 130,000 soldiers in Iraq and now, again with the assumed Goldilocks options, there will be 93,000 troops in Afghanistan. That’s equal in size to any combined Afghanistan-Iraq troop deployment in the Bush administration. The national security objectives are not apparent enough to force the same 200,000 or so soldiers to endlessly deploy and re-deploy: these dual wars have gone on a combined 14 years now. The scenario envisioned by the Onion in March is coming true: “U.S. Troops In Iraq Excited to Finally Return to Afghanistan.”-MB


Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki supports a referendum that would push all U.S. troops out of Iraq by the start of 2011 instead of the end of 2011 as the Obama administration plans, reports the Washington Post’s Ernesto Londono. Maliki wants the Americans out — he has actively tried to curb the soldiers influence throughout the country. And while it’s not known if this referendum will actually come to a vote and pass, only 27 percent of Iraqis polled said they had "confidence" in U.S. soldiers.

Should the Obama administration be, you know, concerned about the fact it’s so not wanted? In the administration’s defense, Defense Sec. Robert Gates was not even told of this referendum by Iraq officials when he recently visited. The Iraq government might, in other words, be quietly asking for continued U.S. assistance while Maliki publicly disparages the American soldiers. But for the good of Iraq’s sovereignty and U.S. self-interest, there could come a point before 2011 where the U.S. should just listen Maliki and leave.-MB