After President Obama announced his plan to cut military spending last week, the war hawks immediately got to work trying to throw a wrench in any talk of reducing the Pentagon’s massive budget. But without much substance to fall back on, many hyped a made-up narrative that Defense Secretary Robert Gates disapproved of Obama’s suggested cuts.
“[W]hy is Gates publicly announcing that the commander in chief blew it?” the Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin wondered (though he didn’t publicly announce anything of the sort). And in a post titled “Gates and Mullen vs. Obama,” the Weekly Standard pointed out that Gates had recently as February warned against cutting military spending and suggested that must mean that Gates also disagrees with Obama’s new plan:
In February, Defense secretary Robert Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, sounded a cautionary note at a congressional hearing on the defense budget. [...]
But now it’s not congressional cuts to the Pentagon’s budget that the top civilian and military commanders have to worry about. Mullen and Gates will have to worry about cuts that the commander in chief is proposing.
However, during a press conference at the Pentagon yesterday, Gates put all this nonsense to bed, saying he’s on board because of “the way it is structured, with the president saying that no specific budget decisions will be made until we have completed this review.” He later added that his previous comments about spending cuts did not apply in this case:
Q: Last November, you criticized the deficit reduction commission’s specific cuts as math, not strategy. Could that same criticism be applied to the White House number of $400 billion that seems to have come out of thin air.
GATES: Well, first of all, it’s a target. And I don’t have that same criticism because of what the president said, that no specific budget decisions will be made until we’ve reviewed these things, and these choices and options are put before them.
So that pretty much takes care of that. So what will the Military Industrial Complexers make up next? They better hurry. As Aviation Week noted yesterday, “the momentum had until now been on the side of those who want to protect defense coffers” but President Obama’s proposal is moving the debate in the other direction.