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. Jim

    Missile defense needs more research and testing. We didn't want to attempt a shoot down of the N. Korean rocket because we were afraid it wouldn't work and also Kim Jong is a wacko. Its ok under test conditions but even then its about 50/50. And those pesky No. Koreans are always up to no good.

    The F-22 is also way overpriced. We need new jets but it is to pricey and way behind schedule. How can we replace all our fighters at a price of 350 million a jet? 3 Jets would cots over a billion dollars? Can we say price gouging? That jet design is already 20 yrs old! How can we replace thousands of jets with at a price of 350 million per jet?

    And the Marine one was a fiasco as well. Not to mention the V-22 holdover from the cold war. The defense dept. needs to stop spending like our economy has unlimited amounts of wealth.

    April 10, 2009 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  2. Steve In California

    The days of superpowers standing nose-to-nose, playing "flinch" are pretty much over. The need for weapons that will be effective in that kind of conflict has not completely disappeared, but it is certainly less important. We have to be ready for threats from countries like North Korea or Iran, but those conflicts will have entirely different axes of conflict than big global confrontations.

    A good, simple example of how our forces were not ready for a regional conflict with insurgents was the simple lack of armor on humvees and personnel when we first engaged in Iraq. The troops had to weld armor from junkyards on to their trucks to protect themselves. We had the capability to turn vast swaths of the globe into glowing, nuclear holocausts with the push of a few buttons, but we couldn't protect our troops from a local tribesman with an RPG.

    More money has to be poured into weapons, transport vehicles, surveillance systems, and appropriate training for slow-smolder types of wars. We need to have a force that is agile, can quickly deploy, and can protect our interests on very short notice. I believe Gates is right on target with his re-engineering of the American armed forces.

    April 10, 2009 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  3. Jason

    Since when was Fareed a military analyst?

    Fact: China and Russia are going full speed ahead with their fighter modernization programs. Even if no war is fought against them, those planes may one day be exported to other nations.

    Meanwhile, ours is being trashed. It's not the 'rise of the rest,' it's just weakness, and too many people listening to Zakaria keep on suggesting we disarm ourselves and hand our economic (and as a consequence every other type) future over to China and India.

    April 10, 2009 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  4. Scott

    I'm concerned that he wants to drop the missile defense program. Otherwise I agree with the rest of the changes.

    April 10, 2009 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  5. arithmetic is liberal

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

    The Military Industrial Complex has BANKED its dependence on parochial interests since the late 50s. There is a military base or a weapons foundry in each of our 431 congressional districts. You can't cut into the profit margins of Lockheed Martin, Boeing, or Dow Chemical without howls of protest.

    Case in point: it takes this much energy from the SECRETARY OF DEFENSE to cut a single model of a plane out of the defense budget. ONE PLANE.

    April 10, 2009 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  6. sensi johnson

    Fareed hit the nail on the head. This government is doing a lot of great things in its infancy that will be very good in the long run. I will go one step further and expose those in congress who will oppose the budget for no apparent reason, except that it will benifit them politically.

    April 10, 2009 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  7. Carlos

    You know, once you think about it, it is extremely logical. Yet you do have these congressman who only think about "their" district. Which is utterly selfish. The Defense Secretary took an extremely bold step, yet a tep in the rght direction. I hope others follow suite.

    April 10, 2009 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  8. Tom Kaye

    It's about time we "modernize" our military rather than rely on "cold war" mentality.

    We still have the capability to take on the "big guys" . . . but we need to be able to take on the "little guys as well . . . and we have seen in Iraq and Afghanistan that all the military might in the world we'll still have trouble with insurgencies and/or guerrilla warfare.

    This is something we still have not learned from fighting Indians.

    April 10, 2009 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  9. John

    Maybe fewer costly high-tech gizmos wouldn't be so bad....

    Anyone remember the Sgt. York gun boondoggle?

    April 10, 2009 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  10. Moderate Democrat

    I work in the defense contract industy and I am actually employed under one of the programs being cut, along with another that is being delayed. I say cut em.....

    Bravo Gates and Obama for looking at the big picture, AMERICA. It's time that businesses, such as the one that employs me are: On Schedule, On Budget and Above Quality.

    Fire em all until they meet their proposals in all categories. And if one of them is me, then I don't deserve the money for not keeping my promises of delivery and price!

    April 10, 2009 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  11. Simmy

    Thank God USDS Gates has been given the opportunity to shine. I'm sure he was muzzled in the monarch's kingdom. Now he is free to be himself. He looks free and content. Best to him.....I trust his judgment.

    April 10, 2009 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  12. Bev - NYC

    Great it's time to stop building things that do not work, just to have new toys which end up in an expensive scap heap . I would like to see more funds spent directly on the troops for what they need to get the job done, proper flack jackets, satellite radios for communication, armoured vehicles, proper health care etc. No more going into a war zone with Army we have.

    April 10, 2009 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  13. 4 and No More

    America voted clearly in November that pork spending is okay. We will pay for that decision for at least 4 years. Don't expect this Pentagon budget to get passed. The Democratic congress is in session.

    April 10, 2009 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  14. Brendan

    This is the perfect oppertunity to start a new idea of how to spend our money in defense. Why would you spend money on an old appliance that isn't good for what you need now. And please stop saying they are "gutting the defense budget", that is the most rediculous statement when they are adding money to it.

    April 10, 2009 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  15. arithmetic is liberal

    "In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

    We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together. "

    ~ Dwight D. Eisenhower, January 17, 1961

    April 10, 2009 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  16. phoenix86

    It is revolutionary. It is revolutionary in the sense that it is a budge the manages to leave the US more vunerable at the moment its enemies sense our political weakness. Hopefully, North Korea, Iran and terrorist will "like" us enough to stop killing US citizens.

    April 10, 2009 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  17. Joe in Austin

    Military spending has always doubled as investment in science.

    April 10, 2009 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  18. alvino

    Anger from the pork people in congress, lobbyists and defense consultants because the Defense Department is trying to spend our money wisely.

    Who are these congressmen that won't put the country ahead of their own districts?

    April 10, 2009 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  19. Tulsa

    Mr. Zakaria, as usual, has hit the nail on the head.
    Good for Sec. Gates and his team for doing the right thing.
    Now, let's see how long it takes Congress to screw this up.

    April 10, 2009 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  20. gewe

    whats the markup on these jets are they made off solid gold

    April 10, 2009 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  21. K in Oregon

    Mr. Zakaria – Love your show! I look forward to hearing all the unique perspectives it offers each week. Keep up the great work!

    April 10, 2009 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  22. Skeptic

    Now we'll see just how those congressmen really feel about earmarks and pork....

    April 10, 2009 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  23. Ed

    Gates should re-deploy the OV-10 low-flying reconnaissance aircraft. It can fly low to the ground undetected, communicates/takes direction from ground crew - and is a heck a lot less expensive than these high-tech jet machines that fly too high to see what's happening and can't drop a payload on target.

    April 10, 2009 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  24. ran

    Another example of "pork". We should be spending based on our needs not from what state the work will be coming from. Our tax money is not there to help elected officials to continue to get elected because they deliver money to their state. This kind of budgeting needs to end. Good for Gates.

    April 10, 2009 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  25. Da Professor

    I cannot wait to hear the Republicans scream as a Republican (Gates) cuts the PORK out of the Republican defense preferences. Looks like Obama chose a good man at Defense.

    April 10, 2009 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
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