Gates’ speech puts Pentagon where Rumsfeld had it in 2000
Credit Defense Secretary Robert Gates for having the cajones to stand up to the military brass and the pork barons in the Congress, cajoling each to cut wasteful spending; stop fighting the Cold War; and eliminate projects from the budget that do nothing for national security, but help members of Congress get re-elected.
The irony here is that this is exactly the work Donald Rumsfeld was brought in to do a decade ago. (It’s a job that’s needed doing for 20 years; in the meantime we’ve spent about $7,300,000,000 on defense—not including appropriations to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.)
Rumsfeld was known, from his experience in private industry, as an aggressive cost-cutter. (Disclosure: Rumsfeld’s son and I were buddies in college; Rumsfeld’s best friend’s wife and my mother are close friends.) Perhaps more importantly, as head of the pharmaceutical giant G.D. Searle & Co., he earned the reputation as being someone who could change minds and push agendas in government: he shepherded Searle’s artificial sweetener, aspartame, through FDA approval.
Of course, 9/11 significantly re-arranged Rumsfeld’s to-do list. Bush might have thought to replace him with a wartime SecDef; Rumsfeld’s do-it-on-the-cheap M.O.A. proved terribly ill-suited to preparing for the fall of Iraq, and its occupation. (Condoleeza Rice, a Soviet scholar, didn’t exactly have the background to deal with the new threat, either.)
Anyway, here’s hoping Gates is successful. With the Pentagon accounting for almost half of all discretionary spending, we clearly can’t continue along this path much longer.
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