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Defense Leaders Address Fiscal Constraints

By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service

LONDON, June 8, 2010 – The top defense leaders of the United States and Great Britain today discussed how to obtain the military equipment and capabilities their countries need when funding is harder to come by.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, right, speaks at a press conference at the Lancaster House in London, June 8, 2010, while British Defense Secretary Liam Fox looks on. DoD photo by U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Jerry Morrison
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and British Defense Secretary Liam Fox touched on a variety of topics in a meeting today, they said at a news conference afterward, and coping with a dangerous world amid economic constraints was one of them.

Fox noted the new British government that took office in May inherited an economic “train wreck.”

“People don’t quite understand the size of the public debt in the [United Kingdom],” he said, “but it’s probably about the equivalent of borrowing some 1.2 million pounds every single day since the birth of Christ. … So it’s not going to be an easy financial backdrop against which to make decisions in a very difficult global security environment.”

Gates said the U.S. military is grappling with similar issues in an era of fiscal austerity that’s occurring in the face of an evolving strategic landscape.

“I said a while ago that the United States cannot have a strong military without a strong economy,” he said. “That’s true of every country. … One way we’re trying to deal with what we expect to be extremely limited growth in the American defense budget going forward is take a very hard look at how we spend our money, and to make sure that we’re spending it on those things that give us actual military capabilities, both now and in the future.

“The effort that I have under way is not about how we fund current operations – that’s already taken care of,” he continued. “But rather, [it’s about] how we fund our current force structure and how we make proper investments in the future.”

That requires a hard look at how the department is spending money in areas other than force structure and investment in modernization, Gates said. He added that he hopes NATO allies dealing with the same problem will take a hard look at overhead reduction and business practices before considering reductions in force structures and capabilities.

Fox noted that the British military is beginning a defense and security review that will involve, in part, coming to a realistic assessment of how much it can reasonably afford, based on the country’s anticipated security requirements and the threats it faces.

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Robert M. Gates

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