A Dangerous Approach

The method Defense Secretary Robert Gates used to identify major weapons program cuts “makes a mockery” of the process used to build defense budgets since the end of the Cold War, a panel of defense experts and former senior Air Force leaders said at the National Press Club Wednesday. Dr. Rebecca Grant, director of the Mitchell Institute for Airpower Studies, explained that since the fall of the Soviet Union, every defense budget had been centered on well-rounded joint and service capabilities-based threat assessments of potential future conflicts. The Gates approach entailed using a very tight group of advisers and little professional military assessment. Grant said the Gates budget team dismissed the earlier approach as providing 80 percent solutions and “single service platforms.” According to the panel, OSD leadership is intentionally introducing elements of medium to high risk in many areas, including the air superiority mission (see above). Calling the Gates plan “dangerous,” retired Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney contended that Gates had ignored the system and used used a team without the benefit of staff knowledge or combat experience when constructing his plan. “This is dangerous,” McInerney proclaimed. “He may be an honorable man, and he may be the smartest man in the world, but even he cannot make all the decisions.”