On Keeping Gates

November 26, 2008

I think Obama’s decision to keep Gates on as SecDef is fundamentally wise, and signals a serious willingness to take on the military’s profligacy and tendency toward inertia. FlyOnTheWall is right on the money (hat tip: Andrew Sullivan):

“In a properly functioning administration, the Secretary of Defense is one of several key voices advising the president on where and how to exercise military force. But he possesses primary responsibility for deciding how that force should be structured, staffed, equipped, and supplied. Those are decisions the president largely delegates, and thus where the secretary exercises his greatest degree of autonomy. And it is in those realms of defense policy that Gates has most distinguished himself. In retaining Gates, Obama is sending a clear signal to the Pentagon bureaucracy that their usual strategy of stalling and out-lasting civilian appointees is going to fail; that he intends to pursue Gates’ key reforms. And that’s a decision which should make us all stand and cheer.

Gates and his team have…questioned the need for further procurement of the C-17, the CSAR-X helicopter, the Zumwalt-class destroyer, and the Army’s FCS initiative, among other weapons systems [incl. the F-22]. One analyst, quoted in Politico’s coverage of the pick, bluntly observed that ‘the defense industry would like to see the entire Bush team move on.’ But it’s not the ‘Bush team’ that’s the problem for defense contractors; it’s Gates. The Bush Administration has presided over an historic expansion of defense spending. But Gates has been warning that the party is over.”

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