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  • Gates announces defense cuts, allocates funds to priority needs

    Published on August 10, 2010

    The Pentagon, trying to free up cash in the face of a yawning US. deficit, unveiled a series of cost-cutting measures that will shed thousands of jobs and shut down an entire military command.

    Defence Secretary Robert Gates said he hoped the shakeup would show Congress that the Pentagon would spend tax dollars wisely during tough economic times and address long-standing concerns about wasteful expenditure.

    But Gates warned in some of his strongest language yet against any future effort to actually cut overall defence spending, which is still growing, but at a much slower rate than it did in the years after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

    “My greatest fear is that in economic tough times that people will see the defence budget as the place to solve the nation’s deficit problems,” Gates said.

    “As I look around the world and see a more unstable world, more failed and failing states, countries that are investing heavily in their militaries … I think that would be disastrous.”

    The U.S. budget gap hit a record $1.41 trillion (889 billion pounds) in fiscal 2009 and is poised to grow wider this year, unnerving many Americans grappling with unemployment at a lofty 9.5 percent.

    But many of the proposed cuts are also almost certain to upset members of Congress, who face the potential loss of jobs in their home districts in an election year.

    Beyond U.S. fiscal constraints, Pentagon officials are also mindful that their budget will come under increased scrutiny as the United States winds down the war in Iraq. President Barack Obama has announced plans to start withdrawing troops from Afghanistan starting in July 2011, conditions permitting.

    Gates said it was important not to repeat past mistakes where economic troubles or “the winding down of a military campaign leads to steep and unwise reductions in defence.”

    “If you were to graph the defence budget going back the last 40 or 50 years, it would look like the EKG of a fibrillating heart,” he said.

    “What we need is modest, sustainable growth over a prolonged period of time that allows us to make sensible investment decisions.”

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