“Warring against waste, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Saturday he is ordering a top-to-bottom paring of the military bureaucracy in search of at least $10 billion in annual savings needed to prevent an erosion of U.S. combat power.
“He took aim at what he called a bloated bureaucracy, wasteful business practices and too many generals and admirals, and outlined an ambitious plan for reform that’s almost certain to stir opposition in the corridors of Congress and Pentagon.
“[His comments came] in a speech at the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum in the former commander in chief’s home town. Gates, also a Kansas native, addressed a crowd of about 300 from the steps of the library at a ceremony marking the 65th anniversary of Nazi Germany’s surrender in World War II.
“Gates said he had recently come to the conclusion about the urgent need for big cuts in light of the recession and the likelihood that Congress no longer will give the Pentagon the sizable budget increases it has enjoyed since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
“‘The gusher has been turned off and will stay off for a good period of time,’ he said.
“Gates noted that for the past two years he has focused his budget cuts on major weapons programs that he believed were unnecessary or unaffordable. He managed to get Congress to agree last year, for example, to stop production of the Air Force’s F-22 stealth fighter earlier than previously planned, and he halted an Army ground combat vehicle project that had been a top Army priority.
“‘More is needed – much more,’ he said.
“That means cutting what he called ‘overhead’ – the bureaucratic machinery that he said chews up about 40 percent of the Pentagon’s budget.
“In this category he included the hierarchy of flag officers – the generals and admirals who run the military services.
“To illustrate his point that there are too many of these top officers, Gates said that while the overall troop strength of the Army was sliced by nearly 40 percent during the 1990s, the reduction in generals and admirals across the military was about half that. He suggested that this was a top-heavy structure that is making it harder to get proper resources to the war fronts in Iraq and Afghanistan.”