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« A Concise Version of Human History | Main | Wired for War -- Closing Remarks »

A New Military Order in America

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates today presented his new budget today, and it is a rather interesting one, especially given the topic of discussion here on the CTlab for the past week.  The Obama Administration is determined to spend less on building the US military to fight a traditional war against traditional powers like China and Russia; rather, the administration is interested in increasing the counter-terrorism abilities of the military.

Interestingly, Gates is calling for a halt on production of the F-22, which cost $134 million each, capping production at 187.  On the other hand, Gates advocates more F-35s.  But, the budget also includes an additional $2 billion for counter-terrorism in the form of intelligence and surveillance, which includes another 50 Preadtor and Reaper drones.

Gates also seems to be determined to force a culture shift at the Pentagon.  The Government Accountability Office reported last week that no less than 96 of the Pentagon's largest weapons contracts had a budget over-run of a "staggering" $296-billion.  To this end, Gates says that

The perennial procurement and contracting cycle, going back many decades, of adding layer and layer of cost and complexity onto fewer and fewer platforms that take longer and longer to build, must come to an end,” he said. “There is broad agreement on the need for acquisition and contracting reform in the Department of Defense. There have been enough studies, enough hand-wringing, enough rhetoric. Now is the time for action.

He also declared that he wants to hire 10,000s of civil servants to do the work because contracting them out has proven to be inefficient.  

Of course, this means that this budget will have to get through Congress, which might be a bit jumpy given the economy and the threat of defence contractors to layoff thousands of workers if cuts are made to programmes.  Indeed, Lockheed-Martin, the maker of the F-22, has threatened this exactly.  This could set up an interesting battle between Gates and Obama, on the one hand, and Congress on the other, irrespective of party politics (Gates, of course, is a Republican, whilst Obama and Congress are Democratic).  

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