Where’s the Beef?

Lawmakers criticized Defense Secretary Robert Gates during the May 13 House Armed Services Committee hearing over a perception that his 2010 budget proposal lacked analysis and transparency. Still, many praised Gates’ work to reorient the US military, including committee chairman Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), who said, “While I have some questions about your underlying assumptions, I applaud your effort.” Ranking committee member Rep. John McHugh (R-N.Y.) also offered praise, but he declared, “The very significant changes in this request not only occurred outside the [Quadrennial Defense Review] process, but arrived at our door without a commensurate level of analysis or intellectual rigor.” He said, too, “The absence of a future years defense program has left an undeniable vacuum of analysis and justification.” Gates replied that much of his thinking was grounded in the previous QDR, “elements of which have not yet been implemented,” and last fall’s national defense strategy. He said he also relied on the “experience of both the uniformed and civilian individuals and leaders who took part in the process over a period of three months” and his own experience. As for analysis, Gates said, “It seems to me we have a process that is paralyzed by analysis and that makes making tough calls very difficult.” In a case of cart before the horse, McHugh persisted that the internal budget process Gates undertook would lead to “a QDR process that is imbued with conclusions that you have already made.” Gates did not dispute that, saying McHugh was “darn right” that he was “going to try and shape this QDR.” Gates pointed to the previous QDRs that had focused on developing forces for two major combat operations and said that he believed the world is now “more complicated than two MCOs.” (Gates written testimony)