In Dwight Eisenhower's landmark 1961 farewell speech, he warned about a
"disastrous rise of misplaced power" in America's so-called
military-industrial complex. Almost 50 years later, Defense Secretary
Robert Gates is now hearkening back to those words. Speaking
at the Eisenhower Library,
Gates said "The Defense Department must take a hard look at every aspect
of how it is organized, staffed and operated - indeed every aspect of
how it does business." He rattled off a laundry-list of defense projects
meant to exemplify Pentagon excess, including Boeing Super Hornet
fighter jets, skyrocketing
health care costs for military personnel, and the possession of 11 aircraft carriers. His call for scaling back the
Pentagon was met mostly with approval among commentators:
- This Is an
Uphill Battle, writes Noah Schachtman at Wired: "Now,
just about every military listener will answer this talk with a loud 'amen.' The question is how many generals and how many senior execs will
really put their little fiefdoms on the chopping block. As Gates noted,
his successors have waged war on the Pentagon’s bureaucracy, too — only
to be forced to retreat."
- Terrific Speech, praises Booman at Booman Tribune: "I have to admit that it
is a surprising but pleasing sight to see Defense Secretary Robert Gates
quoting Eisenhower and talking about cutting the military budget. It
helps that Gates has traditionally served in Republican administrations
and can't be painted as some kind of peacenik."
- I Have One
Nitpick, writes Spencer Ackerman: "Gates’s
speech arguably should have focused more — or, really, at all — on the
defense-contractor-funded cottage industry that pumps out think-tank
reports and about the inevitability of confrontation with China or a
resurgent Russia or name your enemy of the moment; that presumes the
military is the only dependable tool of American strategy and that
non-military options are either naive paths to failure or pretexts for
ultimate aggression; and a media that generally never met a war that it
wouldn’t treat as presumptively justified."
- These Are
Dangerous Ideas, warns Dan Riehl: "I understand the need to
control spending across the board. But I'm also mindful of spending cuts
under Clinton that left us short after 9/11 and I'm not sure how they
specifically reduce healthcare
spending, either. As for the notion of not being able to afford another
war, is that really a financial decision? That metric didn't come into
play in the ObamaCare debate."
- This Kind of Thinking Is
Welcome, writes James Joyner at Outside the Beltway:
"Gates is asking the right questions here... The amount of firepower
and flexibility represented by a carrier group is enormous and likely
well worth the cost, given our budget. But I don’t know anyone who
really thinks we need eleven of them. My inclination would be to figure
out how many we’ll plausibly need and add two. But my strong guess is
that would still leave us well short of eleven. And, given the margin
of advantage between us and the next strongest maritime power, the need
for the Ford class is less than obvious. And the likelihood of a massive
amphibious landing akin to that on Omaha Beach is slightly less than
that of a division-strength airborne landing."
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