Defense Secretary Robert Gates has announced plans to reduce the Pentagon's budget by approximately $100 billion over the next five years. The spending cuts will eliminate at least 50 admiral and general posts, restrict the use of outside contractors, usher in a partial hiring freeze and — most significantly — shut down the Joint Forces Command (JFCOM) in Norfolk, VA, which employs 5,800 people (including 3,000 contractors). While Gates argues that the savings will defuse political pressure for greater reductions and let the military invest in long-term national security needs, Virginia lawmakers say the budget reduction goes too far. Was Gates wise to impose such sweeping cuts? (Watch Robert Gates' announcement)
This is a smart move: Gates' "war on waste" deflates "bloated defense and intelligence agencies," slashes "redundant bureaucracies," and will finally reign in the Pentagon's glut of white-collar contractors, says Sandra Erwin in National Defense magazine. It will also let the U.S. give our troops in uniform stronger support and upgrade "weapon systems that are needed to fight current and future wars."
"Pentagon war on waste: Winners and losers"
Unless you happen to live in Virginia: Gates believes these cuts are necessary, says The Virginian-Pilot in an editorial. But closing the Joint Forces Command will devastate Virginia, triggering massive job losses. Look for house and car sales to plummet; expect restaurants and theaters to become ghost towns. The economic crisis has already left Virginia vulnerable, but now we will really "be put to the test."
"Dangerous winds in JFCOM closure"
Actually, Gates didn't go far enough: Though these cuts "have far-reaching implications" and are the best we can hope for, politically, says Fred Kaplan in Slate, they don't go nearly far enough. Gates' plan to reinvest the savings back into the military still allows for "moderate growth in the defense budget" — something America, unfortunately, can't afford. Eventually, "some secretary of defense" will have to justify why our military budget is larger than the rest of the world's combined.
"Robert Gates' crafty but inadequate plan to cut the Pentagon budget"