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. awaitingmoderationby CNN

    He meant to say devolutionary, but I am sure Hillary will apologize shortly.

    April 10, 2009 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  2. munchmom

    I live where a good number of the F-22's are stationed and I know that if no more are made this could harm our local economy. When there are planes there are jobs-pilots, mechanics, security, etc. Even though it is military, it is still pumping money into the local economy. And I also live near a shipyard where all of the aircraft carriers are going to be built. Cutting down one will hurt the economy and possibly put hundreds out of a job. How is all this going to help when people will eventually lose jobs, our tax base will decrease, and our funding will suffer?

    April 10, 2009 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  3. Sammy

    It's always good to spend dollars wisely. But do not assume there will never be any more large scale conflicts. The F-22 will be canceled but I bet the number of planned F-35 buys will go up. More bang for the buck anyway,

    April 10, 2009 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  4. obama/mama

    Good for you Gates. It's unbelievable the unnecessary crap the former administration started.

    April 10, 2009 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  5. Joe Beggs

    Time for some actual reporting, Mr. Zakaria.
    The F22 is at the end of its contracted production run of 137 planes. The last three of those are still to be finished this year.
    The Air Force has agreed to stopping at the original 137.
    So how is this "axing" a program?

    April 10, 2009 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  6. Ray Fisher

    Only jobs can reduce the budget gap!!!

    April 10, 2009 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  7. valwayne

    What will Obama cost us in American lives in a future conflict if the U.S. doesn't have air superiority, or a missile defense shield against Iran or N. Korea?

    April 10, 2009 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  8. Phil Rizzo

    The USA is between a rock and a hard spot when it comes to the military. Dwight D. Eisenhower warned of the military industrial complex. His warnings have essentially gone unheeded.

    We need a strong military, but to some over 700 bases and expenditures exceeding the total expenditures of the next 25 countries combined, may seem to some excessive.

    The failure to reform the system is basic to our democracy. Congressmen vote for increases in the budget both from fear of the electorate which seems to favor more and more military and Congressmen desire bases in their states to essentially get re-elected.

    April 10, 2009 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  9. Ajay Jain, Garland, TX, USA

    Go Gates go into the assymitrical theater of today's wars!

    April 10, 2009 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  10. WaitandSeeIndie

    "The F-22 was built to fight enemy jets. But when was the last time a U.S. pilot was involved in a dogfight?"

    Only someone like a Zakaria would make this kind of statement. You can bet that if his butt were in the air going against a modernized Russian or Chinese fighter, he would want the best he could get. But if it's someone else, he's willing to take a chance. It seems that Gates and Obama are too.

    April 10, 2009 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  11. Larry

    We do not need any defenses,every body loves us now,save our money.

    April 10, 2009 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  12. cosmicchuck

    It's about time that we have somone in carge of DoD who is looking towards what we need for the future, rather than living in the past. Dogfights are pretty much history. We need UAVs more than F-22s right now. Part of planning for the future is being able to handle the problem with piracy associated with a lawless Somalia. UAVs & satellites are necessary for some degree of early warning, not only for problems with piracy, but also for tracking al-qaida and taliban in Af/Pak.

    April 10, 2009 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  13. Bosworth

    This guy's unwaivering praise of ANYTHING Obama does is just embarassing! If everyone listened to Zakaria, you'd think Obama was utterly infallible. Might be good cheerleading for the home team (similarly star-struck Obama supporters). But it's just plain disingenuous to anyone else. He must think his sycophancy will land him a job in the Administration or something.

    I can't even rationally address his position, since it is clearly just rationalized propaganda. I used to appreciate Zakaria's insight, but these days he's just a bit too enthusiastic about all things Obama. Can't stay credible like that.

    April 10, 2009 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  14. CHANGE we need

    As much as Mr Gates wants to do the right thing and ax the F22, it will not happen. Chris Dodd has too much at stake...F22 will be his ticket to reelection. IF the F22 goes away, so does Dodd...IF the F22 is retained, Dodd is a fiscal hero and will remain in office.

    The F22 is such an awesome weapon system, but if F22/Dodd are a package deal, then let it get axed. Anything to derail the DemacRAT train to H-E-Double Hockey Sticks.....

    April 10, 2009 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  15. Shadysider

    He's looking at you, Dobbs!!! Getting our country back on track and more efficient is more important than winning votes. Too bad many politicans don't realize this.

    April 10, 2009 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  16. Brian Crooks

    The F-22 was meant to fight the next generation Soviet MIG. There was no next generation Soviet MIG. As a result, we've spent billions buying these planes and they haven't flown a single mission in Iraq or Afghanistan. They're just not suited for it. The comparison I usually make is that while napalm was an effective weapon in the dense jungles of Vietnam, it wouldn't be nearly as useful in the desert. We're not going to scrap the existing F-22s, just stop future production to funnel that money toward more useful weapons to fight a different kind of war.

    April 10, 2009 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  17. Gordon Shumway

    Suddenly, there is not enough money to fully fund Defense, but we can fund Acorn and garbage pet projects. Sure glad our national security doesn't depend on the Pentagon...........................

    April 10, 2009 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  18. Jon in CA

    Article states,

    "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."

    His budget may run into SIGNIFICANT OPPOSITION from Americans who don't want our military gutted "Clinton Style".

    WHY do democrat Administrations continually diminish our ability to defend America?

    April 10, 2009 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  19. Michael

    The "revolving door" between Congress and defense contractors is a major reason for our financial problems, as well as for the amount of violence in the world.
    What would arms manufacturers do if there were peace?
    Never trust anyone with a vested interest in continuing violence.

    April 10, 2009 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  20. tasha in tally

    You go Robert Gates!!!!!!!!! I applaused you for having the courage to offer this proposal. I just hope that congress has the guts to stand behind our men and women in harms way.

    April 10, 2009 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  21. Molly

    Now it’s going to be the media’s responsibility to hold Congress responsible for not messing this plan up just to save a few jobs in their district. It’s time everyone start realizing there is a better way of doing business and we have to stop thinking of everything on a short term…election cycle basis.

    April 10, 2009 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  22. Marq

    Gates' plan sounds really smart, but could we get more specifics on what additions are being made?

    April 10, 2009 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  23. boered1

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

    I seriously doubt that they can, and expect the radical religious right to claim that somehow President Obama is gutting the military.. they want to cut spending but not in their back yard... lets see if Congress can act for the country of if they can only act for themselves....

    April 10, 2009 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  24. Dae NYC

    Its time to stop allowing private contractors to cheat us out of so much money, I'm happy about this new budget.

    But watch the GOP fight it tooth and nail: who are they going to turn to for donations if the fat cats aren't getting rich off our tax dollars anymore?

    The GOP has their cash cow, and they will fight hard to keep it.

    April 10, 2009 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  25. Hammer

    I'm starting to hear alot about this thing"revolution."
    What does it mean?

    April 10, 2009 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
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