Obama seeks $400bill in military cuts; Pentagon considers pay cuts
Well, Obama ordered the Pentagon to find $400 billion in cuts over 10 years about a month ago (for more, just google "pentagon cut 400 billion"), and today, Gates announced that pay cuts are on the table to achieve that goal
WASHINGTONThe coming round of Pentagon budget cuts will force lawmakers to consider reducing military pay and benefits, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Tuesday, raising an issue that could prove politically sensitive in a time of war
In what was billed as Mr. Gates's last major policy speech, the outgoing Pentagon chief said the government would have to "re-examine military compensation," consider altering the retirement system to bring down costs, and address spiraling health-care costs.
Trimming Pentagon spending, Mr. Gates said, "will entail going places that have been avoided by politicians in the past."
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates says a steep decline in military spending may force the Pentagon to abandon some missions, minimize the armed forces and possibly limit America's role in the world.
Military pay has risen steadily in recent years, as lawmakers have sought to reward troops for repeated, long deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. Health-care costs have also ballooned, expanding to $50 billion a year from $19 billion a decade ago.
Mr. Gates's previous efforts to trim compensation costs failed. The defense secretary, who has served in the administrations of both Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, tried to raise health-care premiums or co-pays for military retirees, but lawmakers were loath to raise expenses for military families during wartime.
But growing pressure on lawmakers in recent years to deliver big reductions in the federal deficit have persuaded defense planners that Congress may be willing to take a new look at military compensation.
In his speech at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think thank based in Washington, D.C., Mr. Gates signaled that he believed reducing compensation wouldn't necessarily hurt recruiting, noting that with the exception of Army recruiting during the worst of the Iraq war, "all the services have consistently exceeded their recruiting and retention goals."
In a series of speeches and news conferences, Mr. Gates has sought to shape the debate over the next round of Pentagon cuts. While he has overseen two separate efficiency reviews, He will not oversee those reductions, however, as he is scheduled to leave office at the end of next month. Mr. Obama has tapped Leon Panetta, the current CIA director, to replace him.
Besides the prospect of lower benefits, Mr. Gates outlined no other specific cuts. Aides to the defense secretary said he didn't want to constrain the work of the budget-review team.
The Pentagon is undertaking a sweeping review of defense priorities, with the aim of identifying $400 billion in additional cuts. Mr. Gates in recent speeches has suggested he would like targeted reductions to unnecessary programs rather than across-the-board cuts.
"He has granted them wide latitude and does not want to hamstring them in any way," said Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell.
On Tuesday, the secretary said that even as the Pentagon budget is trimmed, there are a number of new weapons systems that must be purchased, including new Air Force refueling tankers, the F-35 fighter plane and a new generation of ballistic-missile submarines. Mr. Gates underscored a point of particular urgency for the Department of Defense: the military's aging inventory of 1980s-era weaponry, paid for by the Reagan-era arms buildup.
According to Mr. Gates, the military over the past decade had invested heavily in equipment for Iraq and Afghanistansuch as specialized armored vehicles to help troops survive roadside bomb attackswhile neglecting to replace or upgrade aging tanks, ships and aircraft. The net result, Mr. Gates argued, was swelling defense procurement that yielded only "relatively modest gains in actual military capability."
Efforts to reform the bureaucracy, Mr. Gates said, also have fallen short. He criticized the proliferation of top-heavy headquarters and support organizations, saying they had become a "semi-feudal system" within the Pentagon that was difficult to rein in.