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Gates: Modernization Funding Imperative; Current Inventory ‘Getting Old and Worn Down’

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates

Soon-to-retire Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, in public remarks recently, has been delivering the sobering message of budget efficiencies in the Defense Department.

But there’s one area that bucks Gates’ public pronouncements: funding for modernization efforts.

“We cancelled or curtailed modernization programs that were egregiously over-budget, behind schedule, dependent on unproven technology, supplied a niche requirement that could be met in other ways or that simply did not pass the common sense test,” he said in an address at the American Enterprise Institute.

The programs that are left after that round of cutting deserve to stay, he suggested, and, in many cases, are “absolutely critical.”

In what is likely to be his last major policy speech before he retires at the end of next month, Gates listed modernization necessities such as long-range strike and air superiority capabilities as well as space, cyber warfare and intelligence.

“We need to build a new [aerial refueling] tanker,” he also added. “The ones we have are twice as old as some of the pilots flying them.”

Modernizing the force is especially important after a decade that saw two major wars and the U.S. military services stretched thin, observers say.

“The current inventory is getting old and worn down from Iraq and Afghanistan,” Gates said. “Some equipment can be refurbished with life-extension programs, but there is no getting around the fact that others must be replaced.”

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