There have been a few, however, who believed his actions were dictated by necessity and his preoccupation with domestic issues rather than a commitment to supporting or enhancing America’s military might. There has been a scattering of voices warning that his overall intentions were the opposite of his initial actions and that his real agenda was to reduce the size and capabilities of our Defense Department. Those voices were dead right. In a speech to the Navy League, Defense Secretary Robert Gates laid out a grim portrait of where the Administration intends to take us. He spoke of a smaller fleet, one with fewer aircraft carriers, few or no new submarines and a sharply curtailed expeditionary capability for the Marines.
The Secretary told his audience that he did “not foresee any significant top-line increases in the shipbuilding budget beyond current assumptions. At the end of the day, we have to ask whether the nation can really afford a Navy that relies on 3 to 6 billion dollar destroyers, 7 billion dollar submarines, and 11 billion dollar carriers.” He then said that, as the current wars “recede, money will be required to reset the Army and Marine Corps, which have borne the brunt of the conflicts. And there will continue to be long-term – and inviolable – costs associated with taking care of our troops and their families.” Bottom line: no “significant top-line increases in the shipbuilding budget beyond current assumptions.”
Gates also gave a clear warning to Marine Commandant General James Conway.
After Gates took on the Marines, he moved on to aircraft carriers, perhaps the holiest of holies for the surface Navy. “Our current plan is to have eleven carrier strike groups through 2040. To be sure, the need to project power across the oceans will never go away. But, consider the massive over-match the
In case you have not yet gotten the general message that Navy and Marine Corps budgets face the axe, Gates made it explicit. “But, mark my words, the Navy and Marine Corps must be willing to reexamine and question basic assumptions in light of evolving technologies, new threats, and budget realities. We simply cannot afford to perpetuate a status quo that heaps more and more expensive technologies onto fewer and fewer platforms – thereby risking a situation where some of our greatest capital expenditures go toward weapons and ships that could potentially become wasting assets.”
Acknowledging China and its quickly expanding blue water presence, Gates never-the-less laid out arguments that “Potential adversaries are well-aware of our overwhelming conventional advantage – which is why, despite significant naval modernization programs underway in some countries, no one intends to bankrupt themselves by challenging the U.S. to a shipbuilding competition akin to the Dreadnought race prior to World War I.”
Secretary Gates hammered home just how tough both the budget and congressional environments are, saying, “we have to accept some hard fiscal realities. American taxpayers and the Congress are rightfully worried about the deficit. At the same time, the Department of Defense’s track record as a steward of taxpayer dollars leaves much to be desired.” He failed to mention his responsibility for overseeing that budget. Then he said that he would be addressing “the issues surrounding political will and the defense budget” at a Saturday speech at the Eisenhower library. The halfhearted applause that followed Gates’ speech demonstrated clearly that the Navy, Marine Corps and their friends got the message. The left wing of Congress will be happy to hear that the Obama Administration is planning to reduce the deficit and pay for their social agenda by cutting our military preparedness and further undermining our position as a Super Power.
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