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  • Gates Going

    Secretary of Defense Robert Gates

    In the coming months, lots of people will be cranking up their computers and burning up the airwaves with commentary on the just-announced departure of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates sometime in 2011.

    Evaluating his legacy as SECDEF when he ultimately leaves next year will be important for the historical record, but the challenges his yet-to-be-named successor will face are more important.

    For instance, there’s little doubt that the war in Afghanistan will still be a major focus in 2011 — not to mention the challenge of managing the White House’s mandated draw down next summer. Don’t forget about Pakistan. Plus, with lots of American trainers likely still in Iraq next year, attention will need to be given to that region as well.

    And there’s Iran, which will either be a nuclear-weapons state or darn close to being one by the time Gates leaves the E-Ring for the last time. Unfortunately, the current policy approach just isn’t making headway. The new secretary is going to face the less-than-amusing task of handling Tehran’s atomic ayatollahs.

    Along the same lines, what will be the status of our missile defenses? An important matter, considering that they provide the best prospects for defending the homeland against the growing Iranian nuclear and ballistic-missile threat. They also protect our troops abroad and allies around the world — yet the program has been pushed back several years. Its success demands attention from the new Pentagon leader.

    And what will be the state of our own aging nuclear deterrent — a force in desperate need of modernization — especially in light of the Senate’s consideration of the U.S.-Russia Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) this fall?

    North Korea will likely be a continuing problem for the new SECDEF. The reclusive state has been more provocative recently than at any time since the end of the Cold War, sinking a South Korea warship this spring and unwilling to come to the table for talks. It’s also selling its nuclear know-how abroad in such places as Syria and Burma.

    And, of course, there’s China. While most of the news has been on its newly-minted status as the world’s second-largest economy, Beijing has been spending lots of its yuan on developing a world-class military. For example, China now has the second-largest navy in the Pacific, after the United States. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs, previously curious, is now officially concerned.

    Moreover, China’s unprecedented military build-up brings into greater fidelity the challenges of our own defense budget, margins of technological superiority, and the willingness of some allies to bear their share of the burden.

    The responsibility pie isn’t shrinking, it’s growing — yet current defense budgets are projected to decline in the next few years. Gates’s successor would be wise to advocate, as he has, the idea that current defense spending levels are the bare minimum necessary to protect U.S. national interests.

    In addition, the money saved from efficiencies and acquisition reform must be given back to the services by the SECDEF so they can modernize their war-weary and rusty arsenals with next-generation equipment.

    The fact is that Secretary Gates’s successor will likely have a daunting inbox full of national-security challenges. As much as any other cabinet post, the defense secretary will need to display strong and skilled leadership from the first minute the new boss enters the Pentagon’s River Entrance.

    Co-authored by Peter Brookes.

    Cross-posted at The Corner.

    Posted in Security [slideshow_deploy]

    5 Responses to Gates Going

    1. Robert, Edmonton Alb says:

      My greatest worry is the continued decline in the strategic deterrent mission. According to a blog post over at National Review written by Frank Gaffney, Gates gave several speeches about the need to modernize the arsenal but then if he was to stay on as SecDef under Obama he had to sign on to their disarmament agenda, which he did.

      Gates was also responsible for another game of nuclear subterfuge by talking up development for a new SSBN right when the New Start Treaty was ready for signing. He was trying to let those concerned with the treaty think that, "despite the cuts in the treaty the US will proceed to modernize its arsenal". This was to get Republican support.

      Just about two months later, he came out and said that the US cannot afford a new SSBN. The first announcement was pure "spin" to try and help Obama get his precious treaty. The fact that he did this at the expense of US national security will ultimately be his legacy.

      The only thing I am more fearful of with this administration is who comes after Gates? Van Jones II.

    2. George Colgove, VA says:

      I hope this guy can get the spending reduction underway before he leaves and before an Obama crony gets the seat. We need smart and thoughtful reductions in the department of defense that not only save $100B but also enhance the field operations and readiness. We need to consolidate our intelligence community to be far leaner (fewer agencies and personnel), but more focused and cooperative. An Obama crony will only focus on growing the federal employee ranks for union dues.

    3. Lloyd Scallan (New O says:

      Like so many others that now realize who and what Obama is and what he is

      attempting to do to this country, Gates is fleeing to save any integrity he might have left after he became an Obama lackey and "crony".

    4. Jim, MD says:

      I hope Gates gets busy with his promises – before he leaves. We in the DoD are hiring like crazy. My office has grown considerably in the last year and we are hiring more. We used to rely on contractors who did a great job. However, these positions were recently deemed as "inherently governmental" and therefore needed to be converted to feds. Funny thing with that claim is this work has been predominantly done by contractors for decades now. Feds have only done oversight and QC. There was once a single tree in the organization, now there are several – all requiring upper level managers. We have added several GS13's and 14's and now we are resembling tho top heavy organization the tax payers complain about. We have terminated more contracts and will be soon hiring more GS12's to the ranks. If Gates was steadfast on his promise to stop hiring, then all he needs to do is send out a memo. We have yet to see anything in the office.

      Our budget and our size has dramatically grown and from what I can see our productivity has sunk. I am sorry to say, where contractors used to do the work, their replacements are busy in training, making training, making reports, coordinating, meeting, delegating, policy writing, etc. Meanwhile we are falling further behind then where we were to begin with. They will need to hire the contractors back at some point to get back up to speed.

      Not all feds are about growing government. I would like to see us start getting ahead. We dont need more staff. We just need to get to work. We have little power do make any difference on the inside.

    5. neel123 says:

      China is now the second largest economy and the second largest naval power in the Pacific, which seems to be giving the American defense planners sleepless nights… !

      Flash back ……

      Go back a few decades, in the days of Brzezinski and Kissinger ……… the western world led by the Americans were propping up China against the Soviets …….. massive inflow of investments and technologies went to China ……

      Cut to present ……

      the Soviets are now gone, but the Americans have ended up with a much more formidable and dangerous, authoritarian and expansionist China as the adversary …… !

      The Soviets collapsed due to a fundamentally flawed economy ….. China on the other hand has trillions of dollars in surplus, and the Americans look up to China to finance their trillion dollar debt……… !

      How will the Americans fight this time, what they have created with care themselves …… ?

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