Monday, May 18, 2009
Gates in Wonderland
"Defense Secretary Robert Gates, a man not known for having his head in the stars, announced his strategic Pentagon blueprint this week, saying his proposals 'will profoundly reform how this department does business.' We hope he informed Congress, home to 535 procurers in chief. ... So give the Defense Secretary an A for optimistic effort, even if we have our disagreements with some of his strategic choices. In announcing his spending priorities, Mr. Gates said he wants to focus on the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, rather than on the unknown wars of the future. ... But it's worth remembering that the reason our enemies have resorted to terrorism and insurgency is because US conventional forces overwhelmingly dominate on the ground, in the sea and in the air. ... China and Russia are upgrading their conventional forces, and China in particular is aiming to build a navy that can neutralize US forces in the Western Pacific. ... Even so, the Navy is left with a fleet of fewer than 300 ships, which strikes us as perilously small. When a US-flagged container ship was briefly taken by pirates off Somalia this week, the Navy's nearest vessel was hours away. Mr. Gates's decision to kill the stealthy F-22 fighter jet, which outclasses everything in the sky, is also troubling. We already have 183 F-22s-original plans called for 750--and Mr. Gates wants to order just four more before shutting down the production line. His proposal to double the number of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters the Pentagon buys next year--to 30 from 14 in 2009--is no quid pro quo. The F-35 is a cheaper, more multipurpose plane but it can't begin to compete with the F-22 as a fighter jet. Pentagon spending is now about 4% of GDP and is expected to decline, which means too little investment against potential threats. In particular, Mr. Gates's budget priorities give no indication of how the Pentagon will ensure that US military dominance extends to the battlefield of the future, outer space. ... The $1.4 billion in cuts to missile defense are especially worrisome, with losers including the Airborne Laser, designed to shoot down ballistic missiles in the boost phase, and additional interceptors planned for the ground-based system in Alaska", my emphasis, Editorial at the WSJ, 10 April 2009.
Gates doesn't concern himself with a potential war in space. He lives there and figures so does the rest of the US military.