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Gates: I Expect the Services to Get On Board With My Reforms

Pentagon chief Bob Gates and the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. James Cartwright, held a conference call to talk about their defense budget reforms. I asked whether and how they had secured consensus from the service chiefs for reductions or cancellations of programs that some of them had seriously desired.

Gates conceded that some of his decisions “did not leave smiles on the face of different services, clearly.” But he defended the months-long decision-making process that led up to his restructured budget, saying that all the service chiefs and secretaries had an opportunity “to put their oar in [and] make their case.” Furthermore, now that Gates and, imminently, President Obama have made their decisions about the budget request, “then it is the position of this department and they are expected to execute those programs. And I made it pretty clear to everybody that I don’t want to see any guerrilla warfare on these programs.” In other words, no quiet lobbying by the services on the Hill to restore some of the programs Gates cut.

Cartwright added a point that could have an impact on potential congressional resistance to the budget request: it reflected not just the perspective of the services, but also those of the combatant commanders, those who command U.S. troops in major theaters across the world. “These are not cuts. This is a reshaping of our basic capability, and the capability that our combatant commanders in particular are advocating for,” Cartwright said, adding that the budget request tracked with the annual Integrated Priority List that the combatant commanders submit, outlining what they need to deter conflict and triumph when they’re in it. “This is a lot about the warfighters, the combatant commanders, the reality of the fights they’re in and the ones they’re trying to prevent and the capabilities they need.”

And the subtext of that will be realized when Gates testifies on the Hill in support of his budget: Why, Senator, do you want to deny Gen. David Petraeus the tools he needs to win in Afghanistan?

Bonus point: Cartwright said that the service chiefs and the combatant commanders “uniformly endorsed the termination of the F-22 at the number we all agreed on, the 187 [planes] and the transition to the F-35.” So the Air Force is apparently on board with the F-22 cuts.

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