George Bush’s Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, who also happens to be Barack Obama’s Secretary of Defense, has identified a free-spending governmental agency that will have to be reined in if the United States is going to balance budgets and cut deficits.
The agency? The Department of Defense.
Gates used a speech marking the 65th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe to argue that blank-check spending does not make the country or the world safer.
In a speech that was as welcome as it was remarkable, the Pentagon chief explained that the Congress, Department of Defense officials and defense contractors had allowed military spending to grow unchecked after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.
Warning that this sort of budgeting without checks or balances is unsustainable, Gates called for a radical shift in direction.
“What it takes is the political will and willingness…to make hard choices — choices that will displease powerful people both inside the Pentagon and out,” Gates declared on Saturday, in a speech at the Eisenhower Presidential Library in Abilene, Kansas, where the current Secretary of Defense noted that the, like many military men, the commander of U.S. forces in Europe during World War II worried about excessive defense spending and warned about the threat posed by the "acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex."
“Eisenhower was wary of seeing his beloved republic turn into a muscle-bound, garrison state—militarily strong, but economically stagnant and strategically insolvent,” explained Gates, who reminded the crowd that, when Ike was president "real choices were made, priorities set, and limits enforced."
In the spirit of Eisenhower, Gates used his speech Saturday to announce that he had directed military officials and defense contractors to slash overhead, and take a “hard, unsparing look” at their spending.
The Secretary of Defense also challenged members of Congress to stop funding expensive weapons systems and spending boondoggles — including multibillion-dollar ships and submarines, additional Boeing C-17 cargo airplanes and the General Electric-Rolls Royce secondary engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter — that the Pentagon has made clear are not needed to defend the United States.