April 10th, 2009
01:20 PM ET
5 years ago

Zakaria: Pentagon's new plan is 'revolutionary'

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is pushing a 2010 Pentagon budget that reflects major changes in Defense Department priorities.
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is pushing a 2010 Pentagon budget that reflects major changes in Defense Department priorities.

(CNN) – U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is pushing a 2010 Pentagon budget that reflects major changes in Defense Department priorities.

One of the high-profile programs on the chopping block is the Air Force's most expensive fighter, the F-22 Raptor.

The proposed budget, unveiled Monday, cuts several traditional big-ticket items while investing in programs designed to bolster the military's ability to wage an ongoing conflict against terrorists and other extremist elements in multiple regions at the same time.

Gates acknowledged that parts of the budget are likely to run into significant opposition on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers are concerned in part about preserving valuable defense contracts for their districts and states.

"This is a reform budget, reflecting lessons learned in Iraq and Afghanistan," Gates said. "There's no question that a lot of these decisions will be controversial."

He called on Congress to "rise above parochial interests and consider what is in the best interests of the nation as a whole."

Fareed Zakaria spoke to CNN about the Pentagon plan:

CNN: What has caught your attention this week?

Zakaria: The budget proposal presented by Defense Secretary Robert Gates this week was nothing short of revolutionary. It was big, it was bold, and it created an uproar. But, I think, it was absolutely the right thing to do.

It's a long-overdue adjustment to how we actually fight wars. And it's an equally long-overdue shift in the antiquated and exorbitantly expensive way the military does business.

CNN: Why has there been such an uproar?

Zakaria: Well, there are several programs that are going to be stopped completely, such as the VH-71 presidential helicopter program and F-22 fighter jets, and other programs - like missile defense - that are going to have their budgets slashed.

CNN: Are those programs important?

Zakaria: I wouldn't say so. The first is the program to replace the current "Marine Ones." It is six years behind schedule and is now expected to cost $13 billion, double its original budget. Even the president, the main
beneficiary of this program, agrees that this is nonsensical, calling it an example of "the procurement process gone amok."

The F-22 has a price tag of over $350 million per jet. The F-22 was built to fight enemy jets. But when was the last time a U.S. pilot was involved in a dogfight?

And missile defense - one system on the chopping block is the "multiple kill vehicle." it looks and sounds quite lethal, but in real life it just doesn't work.

CNN: So if these are programs that aren't really necessary, again, why the uproar?

Zakaria: It's mainly from congressmen with pet pork programs, lobbyists and defense consultants, that's who. The industry that relies on funding for those projects

CNN: So will our defense budget be a lot lower than in the past?

Zakaria: Actually, between the cuts and the additions, the budget won't budge much. It will be just about the same as it was last year. Secretary Gates is just trying to spend our defense dollars in a better way. His plan is about rebalancing our spending to create a military for the post-Cold War world, characterized by disorder, failed states and terrorism ... not
Soviet-style challenges.

We've discussed many of these new challenges on our show, and this Sunday we talk with Syria's ambassador to the United States about the challenge of Iran. I hope you will tune in to hear his thoughts.


Filed under: Pentagon • Robert Gates
soundoff (55 Responses)
  1. Renee

    Antiquated....like the republican party.

    Glad to see that Gates is presenting a more responsible, updated budget.

    April 10, 2009 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  2. Brian in AZ

    I agree with Zakaria. Whereas I don't know how likely it is a rival superpower (which poses a threat on the plane conventional weapons) will arise, it's common sense that since there isn't one CURRENTLY we should emphasize our current funds on more pressing military objectives.

    Fits with Sun-Tzu, too. "If they are rested, make them exert themselves." The high price tag of F-22s doesn't correspond to an equally high disruption of regrouping Taliban forces in Waziristan. Nor does a new series of presidential chopper make fallen states, like Somalia, disrupt the safe haven for pirates.

    April 10, 2009 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  3. Larry

    Any man that survived all that Robert Gates has politically ...

    Gets offered his old job when Obama arrives ... causes me to conclude that he probably knows what he's talking about, regarding this subject ...

    April 10, 2009 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  4. dan

    "Gates acknowledged that parts of the budget are likely to run into significant opposition on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers are concerned in part about preserving valuable defense contracts for their districts and states"

    This statement sums up most of the problems that we have in America today. The people who are supposed to make decisions based on what is best for the country instead make decisions based on what will keep them their job.

    April 10, 2009 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  5. Rick

    This better not be another Bill Clinton dismantling of the military.

    April 10, 2009 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
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