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Archive for the ‘Robert Gates’ Category

Blog-on-Blog: Boot-ing Gates Push for Weapon Systems Cuts

Posted by K.E. White on March 18, 2009

A Boston Globe article reveals that Defense Secretary Gates will be pushing Congress to cut certain weapons programs. The report comes after it was announced Gates would skip a NATO summit to focus on the defense budget.

A Boston Globe article reveals that Defense Secretary Gates will be pushing Congress to cut certain weapon programs. The report comes after it was announced Gates would skip a NATO summit “to focus on the defense budget.”

Max Boot comes out against Defense Secretary Gates emerging plans to cut weapon programs, as reported in today’s Boston Globe.

From the Globe report:

Two defense officials who were not authorized to speak publicly said Gates will announce up to a half-dozen major weapons cancellations later this month. Candidates include a new Navy destroyer, the Air Force’s F-22 fighter jet, and Army ground-combat vehicles, the officials said.

More cuts are planned for later this year after a review that could lead to reductions in programs such as aircraft carriers and nuclear arms, the officials said.

Now Max Boot over at Contentions criticizes this report for not being critical of the cuts. Now the piece does assume that certain weapon programs are wasteful. But Boot doesn’t seek to illuminate this debate with facts, instead  he uses a nice combo-punch of strategic anxiety and economic pragmatism: “But can we really afford to cut our acquisition programs at a time when we are fighting two wars and when major rivals such as China and Russia are pursuing aggressive programs of military expansion? And why, at a time of deepening recession, do we want to throw thousands of highly skilled defense-industry employees out of work?”

But absent in his entry is any defense of the programs Boot wishes to protect. In fact, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld singled out the F-22 for the chopping block in 2002. And here’s a Brookings article defending another Rumsfeld-favored weapons program cut.

The Brookings opinion peice illustrates just how difficult it is  to cut weapons spending:

But no secretary of Defense, even a popular wartime leader like Rumsfeld, can easily kill weapons that a military service and Congress strongly support. Just ask Dick Cheney, who tried to kill the Marine Corps Osprey aircraft a decade ago.

While secretaries of Defense and presidents do run wars, they have no greater control over the Pentagon budget than Congress, which has the constitutional responsibility to raise and equip armies and navies.

Largely for these reasons, the Clinton administration did not seek to cancel large weapons programs, and, until the Crusader, Secretary Rumsfeld had not tried to do so himself.

Now there might be honest disagreements over the merits of certain weapon systems the military should fund. But critics must do more than absurdly argue that any weapon systems—whether it works or not—holds inherent value. It’s doubtful simply spending (even) more will result in greater security.

Especially when one considers this March 2008 GAO report reviewing the DoD’s aquisition program and 72 individual weapons programs. It’s findings–presented here in greatly condensed form–paint a worrisome picture:

Of the 72 weapon programs we assessed this year, no program had proceeded through system development meeting the best practices standards for mature technologies, stable design, and mature production processes—all prerequisites for achieving planned cost, schedule, and performance outcomes.

The results of our analysis indicate that DOD programs continue to be suboptimal and that the lack of knowledge at key junctures of system development continues to be a major cause of these outcomes. The final result is lost buying power and opportunities to recapitalize the force. 

Arguments that consider all weapon programs spending sacroscant are rhetorical pitfalls: they promise only to blur facts, inject partisanship, encourage waste, and–most troubling–avoid sober discussions about what will and will not promote American security and protect the lives of America’s servicemen and women. 

Update 4:18 pm:

GAO chimes in again, as reported in today’s NYTimes:

A top government oversight official told the House Budget committee today that the Pentagon’s weapons acquisition process is “fragmented and broken,” creating cost overruns close to $300 billion with little oversight.

“Major weapon programs continue to cost more, take longer, and deliver fewer quantities and capabilities than originally planned,” said Michael J. Sullivan, director of acquisition and sourcing management at the Government Accountability Office. Often, he added, Pentagon officials are “rarely held accountable for poor decisions or poor program outcomes.”

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Worldview Clash on Russia: PINR & Commentary’s contentions

Posted by K.E. White on February 14, 2007

Putin grabbed headlines with his weekend speech in Berlin deriding unilateral American foreign policy, earning himself a polite, but stern rebuttal by Secretary Robert Gates.

So is this Cold War II, or World War V? (That latter reference considers the Cold War and the War on Terror as WWIII and WWIV respectively.)

To get some insight on Russian foreign policy and its ramifications, Proliferation Press brings you two worldview snippets.

But before we get there, The Boston Globe offers this response to Putin’s speech.

Two Viewpoints on Putin’s Russia



PINR’s Yevgeny Bendersky:



Moscow has been closely observing U.S. hegemonic practices since 1991, and has extracted several important lessons. The level of influence exercised by the United States throughout the world is costly and problematic, even if it yields important short-term results. Superpower status also has its limitations, as the U.S. invasion of Iraq demonstrated both the scope and ability of its armed forces and initial political pressure, as well as the need for extensive alliances in the medium and long run. The said invasion also showcased Russia’s ability to launch at least a partially successful challenge to the United States in tandem with France, Germany and China. Thus, Russian foreign policy can be expected to utilize extensive alliance-building, covering as many “bases” as possible without damaging its international credibility.

It would be difficult for Russia to rise once again as a global superpower in the absence of an ideology capable of polarizing the international community into two camps, thus aiding alliances and constructing independent economic and political spheres of influence. The world in the coming decades will still be dominated by the United States, but will undergo a transformation, as more countries will assume greater economic and political clout.

Therefore, Russia will seek to build “alliances of convenience” with these countries — whether they be China, India, the European Union, or even Indonesia or Brazil — in order to extend its influence around the world. This is premised on the fact that Russia’s foreign policy will follow Putin’s doctrines, for he is expected to step down in 2008. Much can take place after that year if his successors will not be able to sustain the country on a track launched by him when he took office in 2000.

Nonetheless, Russia can be expected to continue its policy of “superpower on the cheap” — that is, building credible alliances to share the costs of global influence, instead of paying these costs themselves, as the Soviet Union did in the Cold War. This approach can potentially allow it to increase its global influence and status without extensively damaging its domestic and international standing. Russia may even end up as an ally of the United States if the right opportunity presents itself. Its foreign policy could stay as one of well-calculated pragmatism, making it a very important international player in the coming decades.



Joshua Muravchik from Commentary’s blog contentions:


Move over, Borat. The hottest new voice in comedy is Vladimir Putin, otherwise known as the man who saved Russia from freedom and democracy. Putin convulsed his audience at the Munich Conference on Security with this sparkling one-liner: “Nobody feels secure any more, because nobody can take safety behind the stone wall of international law[,]”…

Putin is understandably peeved that the expansion of NATO has already diminished Russia’s security by depriving it of its historic freedom to invade its neighbors. Now, adding insult to injury, Washington is considering placing anti-missile systems in Poland and the Czech Republic. This would mean that Russia could not even fire rockets at these countries just to send them a message about, say, the advantages of buying more Russian gas at higher prices.

Putin has been forced to parry further assaults on Russia’s security, waged by American NGO’s that have set up operations inside Russia to promote democracy and human rights. “Russia is constantly being taught democracy,” he protested.

Is this how we repay Putin for all that he has done to enhance our security? He has furnished Iran with nuclear technology in order, so he explained, to make sure that Iran does not “feel cornered.” He has gone to great lengths to protect us from the likes of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Anna Politkovskaya, and Alexander Litvinenko. Above all, is this the reward that Putin deserves for having worked so hard to keep the world safe from Chechnya?

Posted in contentions, Joshua Muravchik, PINR, Robert Gates, Russia, Vladimir Putin, Yevgeny Bendersky | 1 Comment »