Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Defense Reform by Secretary Gates

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced that he would close the Joint Forces Command (See 1 and 2) to cut military spending in view of recession. In addition, Gates considers lowering the budget for defense contractors, and cutting civilian and military positions in the Department of Defense. Those cuts are expected to offset the cost of the Iraq and Afghan wars and increasing domestic spending (“Gates announces major cuts in military spending”; Boston Globe; August 10, 2010).

The new defense budget plan has inflicted damages on defense contractors and investors. The Joint Forces Command employs 6,100 contractors, civilians and military personnel in Norfolk, Virginia. According to the plan by Gates, the Pentagon will reduce the number of contractors for 10% annually over three years. Loren Thompson, a consultant to major defense contractors including Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics and BAE, comments that hardware producers will be all right but administrative work outsourcers be hit by the plan (“Defense secretary's planned cuts upset investors and defense contractors”; Washington Post; August 11, 2010).

At the Marines’ Memorial Club in San Francisco, Gates told the audience, “It means shifting resources from bureaucracies and overhead to military combat capabilities needed by our combat forces now and in the future.” On the other hand, Gates demanded the Congress not to repeat the same mistake of slashing military spending too deeply at the end of the Cold War, simply because of rising federal deficit (“Gates Urges Congress to Avoid `Mistake' of Harmful Cuts in Military Budget”; Bloomberg News; August 14, 2010). Even though Secretary Gates said he would resign in 2011, he wants to maintain his influence on President Obama as a senior advisor through this plan (“Defense secretary Gates says he would like to leave next year”; Washington Post; August 17, 2010).

However, some people cast doubt on the plan by Gates. Stephen Daggett, a specialist in defense policy and budgets at the Congressional Research Service, said that defense spending would not be cut simply by closing the Joint Forces Command, because some of its duties, including developing doctrine and training, would be done other sections of the military (“Will Gates' proposed Pentagon spending cuts really save money?”; Top Secret America ―― Washington Post Blog; August 10, 2010). It is more important to discuss whether the United States can manage state and non-state threats around the world under a scaled down defense budget. In the House, Rep. Buck McKeon and Rep. Eric Cantor criticize the plan because they see the Joint Forces Command necessary to manage growing and intertwined threats(”Lawmakers Question Gates Defense Cuts in Face of 'Growing Threats'”; FOX News; August 11, 2010).

This issue is much more deep rooted than it appears. The day before 9-11 attack, Secretary of Defense-then Donald Rumsfeld declared structural reform in Pentagon bureaucracy, such as lowering dependence on administrative work outsourcing. However, the terrorist attack forced Rumsfeld to shift his attention away from the reform to the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Robert Gates tackles an incomplete job of his predecessor beyond partisan constraints (“Gates takes on the bureaucracy”; Shadow Government――Foreign Policy Blog; August 10, 2010). In addition to structural reform of the Pentagon and armed forces, Gates stopped some “Cold War” arsenals like F22 stealth fighters, DDG-1000 destroyers, and so forth. However, Secretary Gates must strike a delicate balance between large arsenals for traditional state-to-state conflict and small and quick arsenals for post Cold War combat like counterterrorism (“The Transformer”; Foreign Policy; September/October 2010).

Thomas Donnelly, Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, agrees that the Joint Forces Command should be scrapped because it did not work well to pursue joint defense objectives beyond armed forces sectionalism. However, he says that the reform make the United States safer only marginally (“Gates is Wielding the Budget Axe”; AEI Center for Defense Studies; August 9, 2010). The rise of terrorism and the economic crisis make it necessary to reform bureaucratic and command structure in the armed forces and the Pentagon. However, the United States still must be prepared for traditional threats, as Russia and China reemerge in the post Cold War era. This reform is an unfinished job of his predecessor. Will Gates make solid foundations for the future of American defense policy until his resignation in 2011?