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It really depends on how you look at US military budgeting and planning. We have a tendency to look at the military as its own silo, a freestanding undertaking not unlike a nation-state sub-unit of its own, an American Principality if you will. And viewed in that light, it's hard to criticize most of what Gates has done.

But if you view the US "Defense" Budget as an integral and integrated part of Federal governance, then Gates is exposed as a product of the bureaucracy and culture that created him.

Because if we are honest about threat assessment and real needs, and define waste not just that portion of money spent on all projects that was unnecessary, but as any money spent unnecessarily, then, depending upon how you do the analysis the US military budget is somewhere between 40 and 75% too big.

It makes no sense to allow the military bureaucracy to assess its needs for systems, programs and funds, because ALL bureaucracies evolve to sustain themselves and grow.

It's 2011. There is no conventional threat to the US. The strategic threat can be effectively deterred with 300 warheads. The Naval and Naval expeditionary requirement is the ability to keep the sea lanes open for commerce. The key to conventional threats is to maintain air dominance. And intel and specops working with international law enforcement to counter the asymmetric threat.

If we were to build a realistic military capability around real world threats and requirements, it would come in around 1% of GDP and and actually increase flexibility of response.

Then it would come down to the political leadership actually using the military correctly, which is a pipe dream of its own...

John Henninger

Robert Gates may have axed obsolete weapons, but he helped to continue two strategically useless wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Moreover the technological advances in the military that occurred under Gates, such as the expanded use of drones, made these wars more politically acceptable since casualties are relatively small in these conflicts. As a result the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq continue to drain the United States financially without any political outcry in congress.


John, I'm sorry to hear that you're unhappy that technological advances have lowered our military casualties and hope that you can find a way to forgive Gates for being (a very, very small) part of that.
And yes, it's also very, very bad that he was willing to become Secretary of Defense while we were at war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

John Henninger

To fuster

The point that I was making about casaulties is the same one that Peter Singer has written about in his book "Wired for War." Drones make war seem easy and very much like a computer game, and hence policymakers will falsely believe that future wars will be bloodless and or stay in financially draining conflicts like those in Afghanistan and Iraq indefinitely.

Pandora Charms

It's okay... love looking at your lovely post.
Not much words needed, really.

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