May 9th, 2010
02:05 PM ET
13 years ago

Gates: Pentagon must cut overhead, restrain spending

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Increasing health care costs, a top-heavy uniformed and civilian management force, and big-ticket weapons systems are swelling the military's budget at an 'unsustainable' rate, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said."]

(CNN) - The Pentagon must hold down its spending and make choices that will anger "powerful people" in an era of economic strain, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in a weekend speech in Kansas.

Increasing health care costs, a top-heavy uniformed and civilian management force, and big-ticket weapons systems are swelling the military's budget at an "unsustainable" rate, Gates said. In response, Gates said, he has ordered the Defense Department's military and civilian leaders to find savings of 2 to 3 percent - more than $10 billion of the Pentagon's roughly $550 billion base budget - and shift spending toward war-fighting costs.

"These savings must stem from root-and-branch changes that can be sustained and added to over time," he told an audience Saturday at the Eisenhower Presidential Library in Abilene. "Simply taking a few percent off the top of everything on a onetime basis will not do."

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Filed under: Department of Defense • Pentagon • Robert Gates
soundoff (16 Responses)
  1. haren

    Cut defence by 50 billion and we will have free health care.
    General are playing golf and defence contractors are milking this country with the help of most republicans and few democrats.

    May 9, 2010 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  2. November

    Great – we're paying out more to "the poor" and cutting back on national defense. Democrats are definitely in power.

    May 9, 2010 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  3. CAW in MD

    2-3% of the military budget is a good start, but it can't be the end. Right now the United States spends more on defense than our next 10 competitors combined. What are we getting for that kind of investment that we couldn't get if we just outspent our first 5 competitors combined? our first 3?

    There is no way that we can adequately address the deficit in this country without first taking a hard look at how much we spend on defense. People will reflexively scream about how in this age of terrorism we can't cut defense. But that is a naive viewpoint - tanks and howitzers aren't very effective against terrorists, and they will be useless when the first cyberwar starts. Do we still need to be in Germany? Japan? Korea? The answer might be yes, but lets' at least have the discussion, rather than blindly saying any cutting of the defense budget is off the table.

    May 9, 2010 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  4. phoenix86

    Must be pressure from Obama. I don't see the same willingness to cut costs coming from the EPA, HUD, Treasury, etc.

    As with all left fringe administrations, the national defense bears the burden while entitlement spending of the welfare state goes on unchecked.

    May 9, 2010 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  5. Sorensen

    Mr Gates has plenty of guts and brains.
    We are very lucky to have him.
    Please also get rid of don't ask, etc. no matter what the old and
    incredibly uncivilized generals think. I guess, "think" is a wrong word.

    May 9, 2010 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  6. Dennis

    Let me guess who the powerful people are who will be angered. Dick Cheney? Halliburton? Blackwater? Racial Right-Wingnuts? The defense budget has DOUBLED since 2001. What else has double during that period of time except gasoline prices and health insurance? Certainly not your wages, unless of course you are unfortunate enough to have a job on Wall Street or Big Bank running it into the ground and destroying the average Americans savings. Republicans scream about the Federal Deficit, however the silence will be deafening about wanting to cut defense and fixing the root cause of budget busting increases for the Government, corporations and individuals, healthcare. Financial responsibility is great for Republicans unless it gores their sacred cows and their kickbacks from the defense industry, oil companies and healthcare insurance companies.

    May 9, 2010 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  7. jilli

    Good, it's about time. If you're looking for waste, fraud and abuse that's a great place to start.

    Bob Gates has done an excellent job in his role. Finally, a show of real backbone against the military industrial complex. Finally brains over bravado.

    May 9, 2010 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  8. Jaybally

    Why do we continue to pour good money after bad? Cheney , G.W., along with the other "War Mongers" are drawing retirement from the U. S. Treasury ? Good move Robt. Gates; now bring the "Troops" home and save a bunch more !

    May 9, 2010 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  9. Annie, Atlanta

    Cutting back funding for the military industrial complex? What a novel idea. I'd suggest getting rid of the overpaid mercenaries, too. We spend way too much money on bigger and better ways of killing people, more than all the other super powers combined. Maybe it could be better spent in ways that save people? Just a thought.

    May 9, 2010 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  10. Larry

    If we don't get our debt and defecit under control it's going to crash the world economy.

    What good will the "powerful people's" money be then?

    May 9, 2010 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  11. My Brother's Keeper

    It is inevitable that sooner or later, members of the Presidents administration will begin to rotate out. Although I have no indication that Mr. Gates is 1st up, it would do the country good to have a list of successors for each cabinet level position.

    I sure hope Mr. Gates stays in the job long enough to break the back of the military industrial complex which is the biggest, most systemic cause of our budget deficts.

    May 9, 2010 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  12. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Start with Cheney's Halliburton and while you're at it make them pay back the money they robbed from the American taxpayers by not fulfilling their contracts. Cheney resignation from Halliburton didn't stop them from getting huge contracts, he just funneled the contracts through family members. Cheney is a criminal and should be in prison.

    May 9, 2010 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  13. cju

    gates is an upright kinda guy- Obama has nothing to do with it

    May 9, 2010 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  14. ThinkAgain

    My dad (who served 30 years in the Army) once told me that because of chaotic inventory systems, it costs the military more to find a wrench it already owns than to buy a new one at inflated prices.

    Besides cost-containment, we need better efficiencies in the procurement process. We also need to aggressively go after all the abusers of the system; specifically find and severely fine the companies that over-inflate and falsify their charges to our military (better yet, stop doing business with them).

    Our government and military don't exist so a few unscrupulous people and companies can get rich; they exist to serve and protect the American people.

    Government accountability and watch-dog agencies need to do a better job of ensuring that happens.

    May 9, 2010 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  15. jbakaregit

    phoenix86, we spend more on defense than the rest of the world combined. If we cut unnecessary defense spending by just 30%, we'd still be spending more than the rest of the world.

    Spending trillions on defense and fueling the military industrial complex President Eisenhower warned about = strong on terror,
    Spending a dime on domestic issues = socialism, marxism, welfare

    It's this standard GOP argument that America didn't buy in 2006, 2008, and isn't buying now. It's no wonder the GOP screams about fiscal responsiblity, yet doesn't have the record to back it up. Clinton reduced (just a little bit) unnecessary defense spending, which helped to balance the budget. Where is the GOP regard of balanced budgets in the last 30 years?

    Great empires like the Romans collapsed b/c their leaders cared more military adventures and ever-expanding foreign occupations and less for the host citizenry's infrastructure/basic way of life.

    May 9, 2010 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  16. JohnB

    I remember a pretty good General,and a so so Republican President warning the American people about the dangers of the military complex. Boy was he farsighted. Here we are today with it. Now we get to have fun dealing with it. At least this administration has the balls to do it. The other presidents didn't seem to have any.

    May 9, 2010 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |