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Defense Analyst: Gates’ Successor to Face Uphill Battle

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Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates — despite the administration’s entreaties to stay on for the remainder of President Barack Obama’s first term — will likely step down some time this year.

The guessing game of who will take over has already begun, but Loren Thompson, a defense analyst and chief operating office off the Arlington, Va.-based Lexington Institute think tank, doesn’t begrudge the contenders.

In an op-ed for Defense News, Thompson writes that Gates’ successor “isn’t likely to wield the same moral authority,” as Gates, who may, in fact, go down in history as the most successful defense secretary, he argues.

“But while Gates may have been uniquely well-suited to his times,” he adds, “the times are changing.”

The past 10 years have seen U.S. global economic output flag while defense spending continued to surge, all against the backdrop of an increasing reliance on our main global rival, China, Thompson writes.

And once Gates is gone, the new man or woman atop the Pentagon’s bureaucratic apparatus won’t be able to exempt the department from deficit-reduction plans.

On top of that, Thompson notes criticism that the military’s civilian leadership is increasingly growing out of touch as well as the Pentagon’s procurement process.

The next defense secretary will have to take good hard look at the department’s role, Thompson writes.

“Whoever follows Secretary Gates in the Pentagon’s fabled E-Ring will need to face up to these budgetary realities,” he explains. “If not, change will be imposed by the White House and Congress — with predictably destructive consequences for military preparedness.”

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