As he makes the final rounds of his public pronouncements as head of the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates is warning of the specter of deep budget cuts.
Speaking before the Senate Armed Service’s Committee for the last time before he steps down at the end of the month, Gates reiterated his contention that, with few exceptions, DoD has already made the easy cuts and further cost-savings will be more difficult.
Increasingly, difficult decisions are going to have to be made to achieve the $400 billion in cost-savings over 12 years the White House announced in the spring. That number is over and above the original departmental cost-savings, known as efficiencies, Gates launched last August.
Getting to $400 billion in cuts, “will require real cuts,” Gates said, according to Defense News, that “must address force structure,” he added.
“A smaller military, no matter how superb, will be able to go fewer places and do fewer things,” he said.
And the threat of deeper budget cuts would force the nation to confront questions of defense policy, Gates told lawmakers.
“If we cut our Defense budget and we cut our State Department budget, and State has fewer assets to deploy abroad and we have fewer assets to deploy abroad, and then we begin to close one or another foreign base, are we basically sending the message to the rest of the world, to China, to Iran, to North Korea, that the U.S. is closing up shop and going home and we’re heading toward fortress America again?” Gates said, according to a Federal News Radio report.