Gates lays it on the line

GATES LAYS IT ON THE LINE…. Matt Duss thinks this is change we can believe in.

I don’t think it’s overstating things to say that Defense Secretary Gates’ announcement of his 2010 defense budget recommendations represents an appreciable shift in the way that the United States approaches the issue of military acquisitions. Applying lessons learned in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as signifying a recognition that the continuing economic crisis places real constraints on defense spending, Gates’ recommendations are an important — but by no means comprehensive — move toward a responsible re-balancing of America’s defense spending priorities.

Describing it as “the product of a holistic assessment of capabilities, requirements, risks and needs for the purpose of shifting this department in a different strategic direction” Gates said that “this is a reform budget, reflecting lessons learned in Iraq and Afghanistan yet also addressing the range of other potential threats around the world, now and in the future.”

Gates laid a shot across the bow of those in Congress who are likely to try and reinstate beloved boondoggles like the Airborne Laser and the F-22 Raptor, (which Gates recommended canceling after 187 are built) saying “I know that in the coming weeks we will hear a great deal about threats, and risk and danger — to our country and to our men and women in uniform — associated with different budget choices. Some will say I am too focused on the wars we are in and not enough on future threats.”

Except, of course, those critics will be putting politics and parochialism over sound defense spending priorities.

I can imagine that President Obama asked Gates to stay on precisely for days like today — Republicans might, just might, be slightly less willing to attack the administration on Pentagon spending with a Republican Defense Secretary hand-picked by Bush-Cheney.

Noah Shachtman has more, including this gem of a quote from Gates: “[I]t is important to remember that every defense dollar spent to over-insure against a remote or diminishing risk — or, in effect, to ‘run up the score’ in a capability where the United States is already dominant — is a dollar not available to take care of our people, reset the force, win the wars we are in, and improve capabilities in areas where we are underinvested and potentially vulnerable. That is a risk I will not take.”