After dropping his budget bomb on Monday, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has taken to the airwaves to tout his proposed changes to more than 50 weapons systems, according to a report in Politico.
Gates proposed dramatic changes included cancelling a deal to build more presidential helicopters, ending production of the F-22 Raptor fighter jet at 187 aircraft, restructuring the Army’s $160 billion Future Combat Systems modernization program, and major cuts in missile defense systems, according to London’s Financial Times.
Representative John McHugh, the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, said the proposals would amount to no less than $8 billion in cuts in defense spending, according to Reuters.
Gates faces opposition to his proposals not only from a skeptical Congress but from within his own Pentagon, reported Politico.
“I’ve made it pretty clear to everybody that I do not want to see any guerrilla warfare on these programs,” Gates told reporters Tuesday. “We have chain of command and that’s what it’s all about.”
While intensive lobbying of Congress is to be expected, Gates said he was concerned about a trend that is breaking the mold of the chain of command.
Gates conceded that he fears that “a deterioration of discipline” has crept into the process, where even low-level officers are offering their take to Congress about what to keep and what to cut.
While it is part of the process for the various chiefs of staff of the branches to provide their professional advice to members of Congress -- not all rank and file Pentagon employees have such a license, he argued.
It is traditional for each service chief sends to send to Congress a so-called “unfunded priorities list,” which may result in money being returned to projects the administration wants to cut.
Richard Aboulafia, with the Virginia-based Teal Group, told Reuters that Congress would likely reverse some Pentagon decisions such as not buying more Boeing Co C-17 transport planes: “The name of the game is to make this a congressional battle.”
Gates said he is ready for that battle.
“We must rebalance this department’s programs in order to institutionalize and finance our capabilities to fight the wars we are in today and the scenarios we are most likely to face,” he said.
Gates wants the Pentagon to place more emphasis on “irregular” warfare – a theme which is heavily featured in the administration’s $534 billion defense budget, according to the Times.
The defense chief is calling the budget a rare opportunity to reform Pentagon procurement. “My hope is that ... the members of Congress will rise above parochial interests and consider what is in the best interest of the nation as a whole,” he said, according to Reuters.
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