Rope-a-Dope Test

At a Pentagon press briefing Thursday, Defense Secretary Bob Gates would not commit to staying the course to see his “overhead cutting” plan cemented in the 2012 budget rather than having it “rope-a-doped” until he leaves, replying simply, “We’ll see.” Gates emphasized, though, that he is not attacking “the overall defense topline” or “core military functions,” rather he wants to target “excess management structure.” Gates wants a reduction in numbers of both senior military (flag officers) and senior civilians, and, although Gates said that “we would proceed with care on this,” he maintained, “We have to figure out a way to try … and make this department more agile.” Can we rule out further major cuts to weapons programs? No. Pressed, Gates reiterated, “I’m talking about ruling out a cut to the topline,” but, he continued, “there are some [programs] that are still being looked at.” (Press briefing transcript)