Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates is “a leader when it comes to fiscal responsibility” and will provide President Barack Obama with options — along with the pros and cons of each — to make additional defense cuts, the assistant secretary of defense for public affairs said yesterday.
Gates “has made some very hard choices and some very innovative decisions in doing his efficiencies exercise,” Douglas B. Wilson told interviewer Vago Muradian on “This Week in Defense News.”
Obama announced last week that he would work with Gates and Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to find additional cost savings beyond the $400 billion in reductions the department has made over the past two years.
The goal is an additional $400 billion in national security cuts through 2023, to help realize $2 trillion in savings as part of a plan to reduce federal borrowing by $4 trillion over the next 12 years.
“We have been given a mission, and the secretary will undertake it,” Wilson said.
It’s too early to determine where exactly those cuts will be made, he said, noting that Obama called for a review of the nation’s role in the world, along with its missions and responsibilities.
“That will be the framework for this initiative,” Wilson said. “And the secretary of defense is committed to providing the president with the options necessary and the choices and the implications of those choices.”
Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said Gates believes that the Defense Department cannot be exempt from efforts to trim the federal budget.
“However, it is important that any reduction in [defense] funding be shaped by strategy and policy choices, and not by a budget math exercise,” Morrell said.
Gates “has been clear that further significant defense cuts cannot be accomplished without reducing forces structure and military capabilities,” Morrell added. “The comprehensive review of missions, capabilities and America’s role in the world will identify alternatives for the president’s consideration.”
Accomplishing the president’s goal, Morrell said, “must be about managing risks associated with future threats and national security challenges and identifying missions that the country is willing to forego.”
Obama has acknowledged that the Pentagon has been at the forefront at eliminating “unneeded, duplicative and obsolete programs and administrative overhead,” Morrell said.
The president “wants us to continue this effort with the goal of significant additional savings over the coming decade,” Morrell added.