Defense Secretary Robert Gates briefed lawmakers Thursday about proposed cuts to military spending before publicly announcing cuts to weapons programs, according to various media reports.
At a Pentagon briefing, Gates announced the cancellation of the Marine amphibious vehicle Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle. Gates said the need for the EFV can be met with existing systems but the cut doesn’t reflect “disregard for the Marines’ mission.”
In addition, Gates proposed putting the Marines’ Joint Strike Fighter on a two-year probation to address production issues.
The secretary also reiterated his call to find $100 billion over five years in departmental efficiencies – that is, freeing up money from within DoD and repurposing it within the Pentagon.
But included with that familiar refrain was the announcement of $78 billion in additional cost-savings to be used to reduce the overall federal budget deficit.
Along with the concession to a changed political and economic moment, many defense observers see Gates’ announcement as a way to outmaneuver a congress that may have considered even deeper cuts.
But in announcing the cuts, Gates said he hoped the culture of the military would change: from one of endless funding to one of “savings and restraint.”
“Not every defense program is necessary,” the secretary said soberly, “not every defense dollar is sacred and more of nearly everything is simply not sustainable.”
§ Staff support contractors will be cut 10 percent per year for three years, saving $3 billion
§ Modest increases in TriCare fees beginning in the 2012 fiscal year
§ The Army will cancel procurement of the SLAMRAAM surface-to air-missile and the non-line-of-sight launch system
When news of the proposed cuts first began circulating earlier this week, Reuters reported the move reflected a “tussle” between the secretary and the White House over the Pentagon’s budget.
Gates originally proposed a $100 billion round of efficiency initiatives in August, which would cut money from overhead costs and repurpose it into weapons systems and procurement.
However, as political winds shifted, talk began of actual cuts to DoD’s budget to be used for deficit reduction throughout the federal government.
The White House has recently been “pressing” Gates to make cuts of about $150 billion “to help narrow the huge federal deficit,” Reuters reported.
However, Gates resisted those calls and instead announced about $78 billion in cost savings.