Unveiling his decisions yesterday, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates set new priorities for the US military in an age of austerity. His program and budget decisions will help close the strategy-funding gap and will better prepare the US military to face anti-access and other military challenges on the horizon. While the budget cuts Gates proposed are significant, they are judicious and signal his determination to avoid hollowing either the force or its modernization accounts.
Andrew Krepinevich, President of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA) applauds Gates’ decisions. “We wholeheartedly support the decisions Secretary Gates has made and the direction he has set,” he said. “Although complete details will not be available until the FY2012 defense budget is released, Gates’ announcement represents a balanced approach that recognizes the need for both fiscal austerity and investments in new capabilities.”
“Secretary Gates’ program decisions reveal a pattern of divesting systems that depend on relatively benign conditions while placing priority on those that are well-suited for operating in far less permissive environments,” according to Jim Thomas, CSBA’s Vice President for Studies.
Gates’ decisions are consistent with recommendations from CSBA’s Strategy for the Long Haul monograph series, AirSea Battle: A Point of Departure Concept, and Sustaining America’s Advantage in Long-Range Strike, including to:
- Field a new penetrating bomber for the Air Force in time to replace its legacy systems that are rapidly losing their ability to survive against sophisticated air defenses currently in service in the Pacific and Southwest Asia.
- Develop new electronic jammers and a carrier-launched unmanned strike and surveillance platform to sustain the Navy’s advantage over enemies with anti-access/area denial capabilities.
- Cancel the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle while preserving the Marine Corps’ expeditionary power projection capabilities.
“These initiatives are a major step toward preparing for tomorrow’s challenges instead of recreating a force that is best suited for yesterday’s wars,” concluded Mark Gunzinger, Senior Fellow at CSBA.
Gates’ decisions to reduce DoD’s active, reserve, and civilian total force, and to streamline various DoD organizations, will also generate savings to fund high priority modernization programs. The Secretary should also be applauded for taking steps to arrest skyrocketing DoD healthcare costs. “While Gates’ proposal to raise TRICARE premiums for working-age retirees is certain to draw criticism, if DoD does not do something to rein in healthcare costs then cuts to force structure and additional weapon systems will be necessary,” according to Todd Harrison, Senior Fellow for Defense Budget Studies.