In an interview with CNN’s John King, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates touched on a wide range of issues on areas such as the current U.S. relationship with Pakistan, the number of deployed troops in Afghanistan, the DoD budget predictions and his recent announced stance on the removal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
Gates gave a number of insightful responses to King’s direct questions. In regards to international relations with Pakistan, Gates scaled it significantly higher than previous years.
“I would say and this is kind of a foolish thing, but on a scale of ten, I would have put the relationship at about a three two years ago,” he said. “And I think it’s probably at a six or a seven now. I mean, there’s been a significant improvement in the partnering and in the cooperation.”
With this, Gates mentioned the 50,000 target for troops in Iraq is still on schedule for Sept. 1. He explained the downshift from the current 96,000 to the intended number will take a matter of months but should not exceed what the president had proposed.
“Well, the Pentagon plans for everything,” Gates said. “But our intent, our policy direction, and our plans are all to be down to 50,000 on — in August, as the president has directed and as we’ve told the Iraqis. And right now there’s nothing on the table that tells us that we are not going to be able to make that.”
Regarding the fiscal budget of the DoD, Gates explained the recent compromise will cause a reassignment of the money layout within the department. Going from a usual 3 percent growth above inflation to an expected 1 percent, Gates said, “I want to shift enough money from the overhead and bureaucracy if you will to the tooth part of the military, to the forces that the forces and our investments in future weapon systems will meet that two (percent) to three percent standard. “
The “John King USA” interview ended on Gates’ recent approval of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal. Gates took a defensive stance and replied to critics with an explanation of his reasoning behind his request to wait until the completion of the review. His response resonated with what was said in the press conference and his main initiative was to fully obtain a grasp on the responses of the people in uniform.
“I want to do this right,” Gates said. “I want to do it in a way that makes as little impact on the readiness and capability of our forces as possible in the middle of two wars.”