Cuts like a Knife

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates made news yesterday announcing plans to make cuts in the Department of Defense (DOD). Some may be saying his plans are more in line with a Friday the 13th slashing by Jason.

Of course, Gates says there are “no sacred cows” in his plan.

Two things stood out to me while listening to the briefing.

First, the Secretary wants to close or consolidate bases. He said:

I’ve also authorized each of the military departments to consider consolidation or closure of excess bases and other facilities where appropriate. This is obviously a politically fraught topic. Currently, Congress has placed legal constraints on DOD’s ability to close installations. But hard is not impossible, and I hope Congress will work with us to reduce unnecessary costs in this part of the defense enterprise.

This could spell bad news for smaller bases, especially those with one or two missions. Frankly, it will be easy for the military branches to identify bases to close or consolidate, but actually closing or consolidating them will be a big obstacle.

Being identified by the military branch as a base that should be closed or consolidated will leave a black mark on that base. At least it will let the community and its leaders know that their base may not be around forever as planned if the closure/consolidation plan makes it through Congress.

If you are a supporter of a base in your community, now would be the time to get all hands on deck and keep your “sacred cow” off the list.

Second, Gates says everything is on the table in bringing the bureaucracy called the Department of Defense under control, including health care. Gates was asked about the expense of health care and medical costs and “How much longer can you see these growing costs before you really have to pass on those expenses in terms of increased TRICARE premiums or reduced coverage?

Gates responded:

I think it’s safe to say that, as far as I’m concerned, in this effort there are no sacred cows, and health care cannot be excepted from that.

We’ve heard rumors of plans by the Obama Administration to pass on more of the health care costs to the member and retiree. Increasing any health care costs to active duty members and their families and to retirees and their families is just not the right thing to do when we’ve asked our military members and their families to do so much over the last decade. Face it, the present administration and the party that controls the House and Senate are not too supportive of the military, the veteran, or the retiree.

One other amusing thing that was brought up during Gates briefing (if it were not so sad a statement about members of Congress) is the number of reports the DOD has done for Congress.

Gates said:

….this department is awash in taskings for reports and studies. In 1970, the Pentagon produced a total of 37 reports for the Congress, a number that topped off at more than 700 reports in last year’s cycle.

With hardly anyone in Congress having any military experience these days (including the Montana Congressional delegation), it’s no wonder members of Congress and their staff need to have most everything explained to them in writing…and probably with pictures, too.

The Secretary’s plans are needed to reel in the DOD. Our country is going broke under the present leadership. If Gates can obtain just a few of his requests, the DOD will better off down the road, but it won’t streamline the DOD. That won’t happen in our lifetime.

You can read Secretary Gates’ official transcript from his briefing HERE.