Gates’ Tries Hard, Won’t Stop Cuts

Gates’ Tries Hard, Won’t Stop Cuts

Monday, August 9, I was invited [along with other analysts] to a meeting with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates immediately after his press conference announcing some spending modifications.  I also attended his press conference before the on the record meeting.

Overall assessment:  Gates has made it clear that he seeks to defend the defense budget from real cuts that he expects from Congress (eg. Barney Frank alternative budget, which he mentioned in passing) and the deficit commission (which he said he wants to talk to).  None of the money he seeks to save with these efforts would leave the defense budget; he simply wants to transfer overhead spending to other parts of DOD.

While he explicitly did not, repeat not, say so, I suspect Gates knows he will lose his fight against cuts and that he seeks with these actions to help DOD survive the cuts that are coming.  In doing so, these efficiencies are inadequate.  They will not transform the Pentagon into something that can survive significant budget reductions and be anything but the same institution at a lower level of spending.  That, of course, will be a real disaster because even with dramatically growing DOD budgets our forces have become smaller, older, and less ready to fight.

On the other hand, I believe, Gates deserves credit for starting a process to attempt to deal with the fringes of the defense problem.  He is the first secretary of defense to attempt to do so in decades, and he is earnest in his efforts, I believe.  There is a long, long way to go, however.  I and others have written at some length about what needs to be done; those proposals are readily available upon request.

Strangely, the Pentagon says these new proposals are part of the $102 billion, five year “savings” announced last May.  While, again, nothing was said to indicate it, I believe there is something strange about this $102 billion “savings.”  It’s not just that it amounts to very, very little over five years of DOD spending (and that it’s not a savings but an internal transfer), but I have come to suspect that it’s a rather meaningless number.  Instead, it is a device being used to try to extract some efficiencies from the DOD bureaucracy and DOD contractors, and when the real cuts start occurring, these same ideas (and more importantly expansions of them) will be employed to adjust to real cuts.

Those real cuts are not coming from Capitol Hill. Although there has been some hyperventilated talk about bigger than usual cuts in the 2011 DOD appropriations bills coming out of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees (up to $8 billion), much of those cuts may be quite phony.  Although the reports and bills are not yet available from the HAC or SAC, a summary from the HAC (at http://​appropriations​.house​.gov/​i​m​a​g​e​s​/​s​t​o​r​i​e​s​/​p​d​f​/​d​e​f​/​F​Y​1​1​_​d​e​f​e​n​s​e​_​s​u​m​m​a​r​y​.​7​.​2​8​.​1​0​.​pdf) makes me suspicious that they are up to their usual tricks.  Rather than programmatic cuts, it may be that much of the reductions will be gimmicks (such as “revised economic assumptions”) and deferments of spending to future years (such as “unobligated expenditure” and “civilian underexecution” actions) that over the long run save nothing.  Watch this space when the details become available.

Also, the political porkers are cuing up to make sure that their own pigs stay fat and someone else pays for budget restraint.  In this regard, check out the incredibly selfish statements of the governor and congressional delegation of Virginia that queued up in a hyper-flash to announce that someone else needs to save money in the defense budget and that the Norfolk-based Joint Forces Command (now fingered by internal studies, a former commander, and the secretary of defense as useless) is just the kind of defense spending they like.  Shame on them.  Also, the usual political hacks are trying to savage the Obama Administration for being anti-defense for daring to take a penny of bloat from the Pentagon.  In that regard, see the public comments of the top ranking Republican on House Armed Services, Cong. Howard “Buck” McKeon of CA.

Clearly, the change agents for the coming adjustments in the defense budget will not be the congressional porkers and hacks on committees like the appropriations and Armed Services committees.

Winslow T. Wheeler, a former GOP congressional budget expert, is director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Center for Defense Information in Washington

Join the Conversation

Incredibly selfish ? When 100% of the cuts are located in your state, then you’re not paranoid, they’re out to get you. Frankly, this article has not credibility whatsoever. Rather than looking for areas where productivity can be increased, Gates has actually cut those same areas that were built up under the previous three Secretaries of Defense. it is like the grand ole’ Duke of York — you march the troops up the hill and you march ‘em down again. This is not progress.

At least he is half heartedly addmitting the cuts will amount to nothing for the DoD because of pork funding by congress. It also shows he doesnt have the intestinal fortitude to stand up to them and tell them hands off, I would rather be fired for standing up to them publicly than negatively impact the military that protects me and my family.

I dont think big cuts are coming from congress. I mean the authors example is a study from barney frank and ron paul, two politicians that occupy the radical wings of their respective parties and whose cookey and nutty bills never even make it out of comittee. Doesnt really spell death for the DOD. Neither does the deficit commission– whose proposals don’t hold any weight and will hit a brick wall once it comes to the jobs in congressmen’s districts

There are some very interesting comments in the Virginia-Pilot (Norfolk) newspaper, which for obvious reasons seems to be covering the story more closely than the Washington Post:

When you read the fine print on the official OSD site: http://​www​.defense​.gov/​h​o​m​e​/​f​e​a​t​u​r​e​s​/​2​0​1​0​/​0​8​1​0​_ef

what you find is that they are splitting up JFCOM functions. Some go back to JCS where they belong. Some get gobbled up by a command to be named later. Others — I would expect joint test and experimentation to fall into this bucket — just go away. JNTC might or might not escape the hangman, it is too early to tell. Which is what bothers me most. They make a big decision like this, tell everyone to keep on working because they are really important to national defense. In order to keep from triggering the BRAC law, they need to redline more than 500 civil service positions, irrespective of what they do to the SES slots. So there’s your bottom line.

Ah, what I meant to say was: “They make a big decision like this, tell everyone to keep on working because they are really important to national defense, bring in the HR people to work the transfer orders (for those fortunate enough to get transferred), but publically, they don’t give out the details, but do make statements to the effect that they are still working out the details, and nobody on the ground seems to have gotten warned (or at least they won’t admit such a thing to the press). Not a pretty sight.

The “Deficit Commission” was primarily designed to establish political cover for increasing taxes. Meaningful budget cuts should not be expected from that bunch of shills.


If we can’t cut Joint Forces Command, then we can’t cut anything. Hardly anyone who doesn’t work there knows what the hell they actually do.

The military isn’t a jobs program. We need to stop trying to do everything, figure out what we need to do well, and concentrate on that. That means deep vertical cuts in structure.

That is a really idiotic remark. Joint Forces Command is the controlling headquarters for all forces stationed in the Continental United States. US Army Forces Command, Air Combat Command and the Atlantic Fleet report to it. In addition to its operational role, it has responsibilities on the combat developments, doctrine and training side of the house. Basically it owns all joint doctrine. You have organizations like the US Army TRADOC and ACC that do this sort of thing within the services — and the Navy does its own thing within its own internal stovepipes. Now most militaries are much more centralized in the way they do business, and the US could try to move in that direction. But just by virtue of the location, the Hampton Roads area was a logical place for this kind of function to be done with the system we have now. They could have built up the Armed Forces Staff College under NDU command to do this mission, but keep in mind that ACC and TRADOC have four star ranks, and so you need a strong four star to crack the whip and get these guys to stand to when needed. “Deep vertical cuts” make no sense if what you end up with is more stovepipes and less horizontal integration.

Centralizing command would just leave to even more micro-management than is necessary.… it would only hurt the troops on the ground, as it would create even more levels of command that they would have to go through just to have permission to return fire and defend themselves.

The Navy now has more Admirals than ships! Is there something wrong with that picture?

Although I agree with the dissolving of JSOC, cutting force structure is a very huge mistake. But alas,this is America,land of the incredibly stupid,and some congressman and senator will cry cut the dod,and they will, and leave us defenseless and broke.

Having a distributed military is not as important as having a functional military. This is the attitude that keeps useless weapons programs alive just to push money through a state. Just saying.

Uh, Central Command is the regional command for all CONUS forces. Joint Forces Command is a think tank on forces integration. That functionality is replicated on a per-branch basis.

They should start with Gates. After what he has done to some of our veterans in Viet Nam. Let his pay go where my medels went, down the tubes.

Has JFCOM accomplished anything in its short history, other than holding meetings to review documents generated as action items from meetings about other documents? It is a jobs program for retired senior military officers. Tidewater region will be hurt by the loss of 3000 six figure jobs, but the soliders, sailors, and airmen will be better off with modernized equipment than a 1000 page JFCOM study.

Curious that there is plenty of money for other purposes. $500 billion in unspent stimulus, tarp and repaid tarp funds that congress is keen to reallocate. There is no lack of money to save public employee union jobs or union jobs at GM…But somehow, in a time or war and growing strategic challenges, it is only the military that will be cut. My sense is that the nation is no longer prepared to carry the burdens it has. The nation has given leadership to those who despise it’s history and it’s people. Our soldiers are brave, endure years of deployments and continue to sign up. It’s tragic that behind their back the leadership sneers at them.

Is Afghanistan strategic or tactical ? Is the choice between feeding that fight while sacrificing strategic dominance ? Leadership, civilian and military is obsessed with denying even who the enemy is — It is Islam and historic muslim aggression — Islam is a poisonous ideology that has been at the wests throat for 1300 years. If leadership cannot even bring themselves to identify the enemy, can we trust their broader strategic judgement.…I think not. Islam came out of Arabia in 690 Ad and conquered north africa, the mideast and turkey — all Christian. Between 700 and 800 Europe was fighting for its life. In 830 a muslim army sacked Rome. For 500 years the west fought to beat them back finally subduing them. Now they are back. This is nothing new, but the heart of the west is weak. Look no further for proof of that than the temple to muslim demon they are building at the site of the twin towers…

CENTCOM is a regional command over the Middle East area. NORTHCOM the regional command over North America. I believe he is right that JFCOM does control joint doctrine.

Having a Cold War perspective and the fact I Served USArmy 2nd supcom VII Corps: Germany 1975–78
and the National Guard (SC) 1988–90. And my father put 21 years with the Air Force retiring as a Trick
Chief at the Pentagon in 1967 as Msgt: who passed in 2008. Had received The Joint Chiefs (SIB) abd the Joint Service (CM) in 1970. Now hanging in my office and as I think on how we again are thinning the ranks
of those who have exposure and make it hard for the (VET) to step into a DOD position and we use their
valuable expertises: THEY ARE NOT DEAD.… they did a great job let them improve and guide the New Troop
and Organization’s and still as we Know there will BE CUT Backs , but they will have the access to these folks to put out FIRES .…

Yeah, I apologize, I had a mind blank. Meant to say NORTHCOM. JFCOM does “own” the deployable troops, but I think it’s just a clearing house for passing them onto the regional commands. They just spray them with that “joint operations” flavor before hand.

Sure, but remember technically NORTHCOM doesn’t “own” any troops. Remember about a year or more ago that there was some big excitement about placing one brigade of the 3rd Infantry Div under NORTH for civil support missions? Then OSD changed their mind on that. JFCOM is the “force provider” for all COCOMs requesting CONUS troops, plus they get to do the think tank stuff. Maybe that’s the problem, trying to be two things good instead of one thing well.

How about CENTCOM. If ever there was an inefficient, bloated organization that has lost focus on it’s mission, I would argue CENTCOM takes the cake! How many people are sent over there to do simple tasks that are entirely capable of being performed state-side. I have personal experience with a position (several, actually) that’s only responsibility was to build one Powerpoint brief daily for a General. We deployed 3 people (for round the clock coverage) to generate a single daily powerpoint. I could go on with countless more examples just like it. You want to save money…AUDIT CENTCOM!!!

Mr. Wheeler — Your conservative prejudice is SHOWING! Of course we need to trim the defense budget! And of course we need to cut Al Gore-sponsored contracting out! I have been on A-76 studies and found that when we compute contractor salaries, the total is much more than if we computed government employee salaries. Also, with 9.what unemployment, and since many contractors are already on the public dole i.e., government or military retirement pay, they should go — open the possibiliities for persons with no income.

Even though my comments didn’t make the cut I believe there is a much bigger waste of manpower, materiel and money in Norfolk, Virginia—and that is the Allied Command for Transformation (ACT). It seems to be some sort of quasi-military organization that just occupies space; and like it’s larger parent at NATO HQ & SHAPE spends most of its time on leave, or celebrating “Flag” and National holidays off. NATO does nothing but write reams of doctrine that no one reads, conduct experiments of no value, and constantly debate how many NATO Flag Officers can dance on the head of a pin.

I fully agree and the first two cuts in force structure should be Mr. Gates and Gen Casey, the Army COS. They are both well past their “Sell By Dates.”

As a vet I have seen so many cuts to our military with sadness. It is never for the good and has always hurt us some how later on down the road. Our troops are the ones who suffer the most, with outdated equpiment, fewer supplies, etc… A dream solution, yes, dream solution, would be to frezze, all politians in Washington, pay for a year. I’m sure that money would take care of what needs to be taken care of, and leave our military alone, or send their butts over to the fighting area and see what are men and women in uniform are doing to keep them free.

In Gates lack of intestional fortitude, he reminds of McNamara(sp). Almost sounds like a Ponzie scheme. My spelling is not doing well this morning, but my distaste for this type of tripe is short. Gates and group should cut their pay and allowances, I find it hard to beleive that people think Billions of good of yankee dollars is nothing. Shows how things change. When I was younger I had never heard of the word Billion, if we really start taking Billions of PORK and such the next thing you know you are talking about real money. If you look real hard there are Billions of dollars (cash) sitting in warehouse’s full of the green stuff, just sitting there doing nothing. Well if we run out of money maybe the present administration will have to bring the troops home, and then again I may run for president.
Semper Fi

CUTS! Here are some cuts that should stir up concerns, but you never see them in the news, just little articles here and there — taxpayers wake up tax hikes are coming and your retirement looks gloomy.
– Medicare cuts
– Medicaid cuts
– Social security cuts (raising retirement ages for full retirement benefits and NO MORE cost of living increases)
– Military retirement health benefits
– Cash for clunkers program
– Low morgtage loand for those that cannot afford buying a house
– Reallocating the stimulus moneybeing paid back instead of reducing the deficiet
– Pork Belly funding for states: building roads and bridges to nowhere
– College and University stimulus pagages: and we still are paying school taxes on top along with tuition cost being paid by students

I’m sure that alot of people will agree with me. Way too many civiilians in charge of the military in whole, and some of them have never served in uniform. Get rid of them and replace them with former service personel with experience that served from the bottom to the top.

ATA BOY : To seen it all. Im long winded and you nipped in the bud. Former Cold War Vet and still amazed with tha greif the civilian outlook pus on those in the daily Trenches. Even from 1975–1991 Army active to NG.
the 472nd Sig . Germany to 151st co.B SC. the mess is even deeper now than ever. Our destructive politics now are affecting the next two generation! Give us a break! Greed? Don’t Care Attitude : Cuts Back others:
Senators: Republican/Democrates: Speaker of the House : Sub Commities that govern Sub-Sub Commities
all aides and all the way up and down SALARIES: How Would They Feel ? Like all of us.… Hurt and Confussed.

In other words, it’s a coordinates doctrine and troops moving from the states to combatant commands. There’s NO way that function couldn’t be done by other commands, as Gates proposes?

By “deep vertical cuts” I mean that we will not achieve the necessary savings by just cutting the numbers of weapons bought or by skimming a few personnel evenly among the services. We need to figure out what systems, commands, and even capabilities we can jettison. Cutting a little everywhere IS the recipe for a hollow force.

If anyone here thinks the military isn’t going to be cut in a big way, you’re living with your head in the sand. We’d better endeavor to do it in the smartest way possible.

That said, there are lots of domestic programs that need to be cut greatly as well–Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid to name three. The biggest threat to our security is not military, it’s economic. Our debt is a bigger threat than China and Al-Queda put together.

It is past time to make hard decisions. We need to do what is smart and stop listening to the whiners. If we keep heading in the direction the republicans and democrats are taking us there will be nothing left to defend.
I support Sec. Gates 100%. We need to push for similar from other agencies.

As far as I can tell, it is the policy of this administration to lean more on our allies to share the defense burden more. Good luck with that, but as long as we are not an isolationist power, we need to train and fight with other nations.

Before JFCOM, there was no joint command for CONUS forces. So JFCOM is a logical implementation of Goldwater-Nichols. There is a distinction between the strategic reserve and committed forces. Forces in the strategic reserve can be assigned anywhere around the world, even though the contingency plan has them slated for EUCOM, CENTCOM, whatever. Remember what Gates said about going away from two major contingencies ? Now he’s going after the mechanism that enables mobilization to execute major contingencies. He has declared what our strategy is not, but has not said what it is. The reasoning is supposed to be that by cutting tail, you keep tooth. Okay fine, but what you should do then is actually plus up the reserves to take on the additional missions. That’s not happening, either (at least not in public).

I digress. The old terminology was “unified and specified commands”. In the old days, organizations like US Army Forces Command (previously Continental Army Command), Tactical Air Command, and Strategic Air Command were “specified commands”. Now, SAC of course had a real world mission — to deter the Soviets by preparing to, and if necessary conduct strategic nuclear operations against the USSR. The other specified commands pretty much functioned as training organizations as their descendents currently do. Military Airlift Command is another odd duck, because it supports the unified commands. ACC retains the residual of its SAC mission, of course. NORTHCOM took over NORAD and added the asymmetric “homeland defense” role to what NORAD was already doing.

When the head is in the sand​.No picture is to be seen.

The idea that anyone can conflate decreasing force levels or cutting unnecessary programs with “weakening America” is not only NOT getting the DoD Savings Initiative, they’re actively trying not to understand it. I really don’t know what’s worse, the “Joint full spectrum future dominance battle space awareness ” paste eaters of today or the nostalgia ridden revisionists “things were great in the cold war when we perfected fraud waste and abuse” crowd.

If you asked how many bureaucrats it takes to develop a joint capability doctrine… it appears the answer is 5,000+. The IDEA of Joint Forces Command was a good one, however the REALITY was that it was an office full of high ranking officers (who weren’t needed) doing lots of make-work with 1,000’s of contractor support.

The consenus seems to be that its a lost cause becasue any savings from DOD will be ladled out as pork by our shills in Cingress.

The politics needs to be taken out of DOD decisions, unfortunately this is next imposible.

I recall reading that some budget guru had stated that the only our taxes paid for was Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. DOD, Nasa and everything else is paid for by selling debt to the PRC

Yeah there was waste but things got done in the Cold War. Sure would be nice to have a total of 600+ improved F-22s ordered. And ever read of the Armored Systems Modernization program? Would have made the Abrams and Bradley seem outdated.

Not sure what “Armored Systems Modernization” “program” you are referring to, but FCS pretty much took on the “modular, standardized components” approach laid by by General Sunnel’s AFV Task Force of 1987–88 vintage. Well ahead of its time, and given present decisions and acquisition climate in the Pentagon always will be. :)

If you’re looking for programmatic “efficiencies” it does help not to spend ten dollars to save a buck.

I had a great deal of respect for this man when he was at Texas A&M but he’s no Secretary of Defense. He has indicaed he knows nothing about the military. My question is; What part of the military did he serve in? In just plain language, he does not cut it! There seems to be too much wishy-washy dingling around with the policies and precedues of the military. When you make deciions that concern the military, they need to be wash out and rinsed with concern about the morale. These combat situations are not a ball game but real time life and death missions. With the exception of the military staff, I don’t believe there are many people serving in the administration that knows much about military. In these days and times, I can assure that the military strength, morale and availability is most important.

I’m confused! According to the new revolution (GOP taking over the House) this was a mandate for less government. Less gov’t is always at the expense of the next guy but most folks in this forum are Republicans so shut up and color.

We need to reduce the size of the military

because during the last 9 years we fought 2 needless wars and feasted on tax cuts from money borrowed from China. Sounds like the chickens have come home to roost…bak..bak.bak

Fire Gates and Mullins. They are worthless. The Secretary of War can stand up to JSF and Say NO!!! We have had enough to Lockheed Martin. Stealth is DEAD!!! JSF is Killing the DOD and sucking the life out of every Program needed to fight Wars, integrate additional capability and the bombing of caves and grass huts. We need to upgrade our current capability and stop purchasing “Rolls-Royce” Platforms to keep Wall Street Happy. We are in this business to “Kill People and Break Things” and to take care of our Warriors and this Nation. Enough is Enough.


NOTE: Comments are limited to 2500 characters and spaces.

By commenting on this topic you agree to the terms and conditions of our User Agreement

AdChoices | Like us on , follow us on and join us on Google+
© 2015 Military Advantage
A Monster Company.