United States Department of Defense United States Department of Defense

News Transcript

Press Operations Bookmark and Share


Remarks By Secretary Of Defense Robert Gates At The Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates
April 17, 2009



    SEC. GATES:   Thank you all.  It's a pleasure to be here for my first visit as secretary of Defense.  And based on the weather and the scenery, we may just have to move the Pentagon up here.  (Laughter.)


    As you may know, this week I visited each of the service war colleges to discuss the budget recommendations I have made to the president.  Those recommendations have three principal objectives:    First, to reaffirm our commitment to take care of the all-volunteer force, which in my view represents America's greatest strategic asset.  As Admiral Mullen says, if we don't get the people part of our business right, none of the other decisions will matter.


    Second, to rebalance the department's programs in order to institutionalize and enhance our capabilities to fight the wars we are in and the scenarios we are most likely to face in the years ahead, while at the same time providing a hedge against other risks and contingencies.


    And third, in order to do all this, we must reform how and what we buy, meaning a fundamental overhaul of our approach to procurement, acquisition and contracting.


    Earlier this week, I was asked why I decided to come to the war colleges to discuss this topic.  What I said then and repeat now is that these recommendations are less about budget numbers than they are about how the military thinks about the nature of warfare and prepares for the future; about how we take care of our people and institutionalize support for the warfighter for the long term; about the role of the services and how we can buy jointly, as jointly as --how we can buy weapons as jointly as we fight; about reforming our requirements and acquisition processes.


    These are just the kinds of basic questions you will be dealing with as you go on to command and staff positions.


    So with that in mind, over the next few minutes I want to give you some insight into the thinking and analysis behind the budget recommendations, then give you a chance to ask questions and share your views.  In many ways, these recommendations are really a reflection of my experience in this job over the last two-plus years.


    Starting with the rollout of the Iraqi surge, my overriding priority has been getting the troops at the front everything they need to win, to fight and to survive, while making sure that they and their families are properly cared for when they come home.


    And whether the issue was out-patient medical care or sending more UAVs and ISR assets to theater, I kept running into the fact that the Department of Defense, as an institution which routinely complains that the rest of the government was not at war, was itself not on a war footing, even as young Americans were fighting and dying every day.


    For too long, there was a view, or a hope, that Iraq and Afghanistan were exotic distractions that would be wrapped up relatively soon:  the regimes toppled; the insurgencies crushed; the troops brought home. Therefore, we should not spend too much, or buy too much equipment not already in our long-range procurement plans, or turn our bureaucracies or processes upside down.  As a result of these failed assumptions, the kinds of capabilities that were most urgently needed by our warfighters in theater were for the most part fielded ad hoc and on the fly, developed outside the regular bureaucracy and funded in supplemental appropriations that would go away when the wars did, if not sooner.


    I concluded that the wars we are in had not earned much of a constituency in the Pentagon, as compared to the services' conventional modernization programs.  This did not mean that conventional capabilities and preparing for other contingencies were not important; it was a matter of balance.  I just wanted to see that the needs of the warfighter -- on the battlefield, at home, or in the hospital -- had a seat at the table when priorities were being set and long-term base budget decisions were being made.


    And one of the things that I've learned since entering government 43 years ago is that the best way to ensure that an organization really cares for and protects something is to put that thing in the base budget. 


    So the top priority recommendation I made to the President was to move programs that support the warfighters and their families into the services' base budgets, where they can acquire a bureaucratic constituency and sustainable, long-term funding.  This includes, among others -- among other things, more funding for medical research and treatment for TBI and post-traumatic stress, improved child care, spousal support, housing and education.  In addition, priorities such as expanding the ground forces and halting Air Force and Navy manpower reductions were put in the base budget, as was increased funding for special operations, helicopter support and ISR.


    Another underlying theme in the budget recommendations is the need to think about future conflicts in a different way, to recognize that the black-and-white distinction between irregular war and conventional war is an outdated model.  We must understand that we face a more complex future than that, a future where all conflict will range across a broad spectrum of operations and lethality, where near-peers will use irregular or asymmetric tactics that target our traditional strengths -- such as our ability to project power via carrier strike groups -- and where non-state actors may have weapons of mass destruction or sophisticated missiles.  This kind of warfare will require capabilities with the maximum possible flexibility to deal with the widest possible range of conflict.


    Nonetheless, some people may think I'm too consumed by the current wars to give adequate consideration to our long-term acquisition needs.  In this respect, the lessons of the last few years have implications for all defense programs:  lessons about preparing for the kinds of war we are most likely to face and not just the kinds we are best suited to fight; lessons about the limits of technology when faced with the fog, friction and ugly realities of an unpredictable battlefield; and lessons about our internal processes, and where they may come undone when faced with unexpected contingencies, evolving requirements and the prolonged strains of persistent conflict; not to mention the ability of an agile adversary to get inside our ponderous decision-and-acquisition cycle.


    All of this goes far beyond Iraq and Afghanistan.  It goes to the heart of maintaining a defense posture rooted in real-world scenarios with real-world assessments of our capabilities and, perhaps most important, our limits, both institutionally and operationally.  As I've said before in other settings, the responsibility of this department first and foremost is to fight and win wars, not just constantly prepare for them.


    Now, even with this in mind -- and perhaps especially with this in mind -- we cannot ignore the risks posed by the military forces of other state actors.  This is a particularly salient issue for this group, as the weight of America's conventional and strategic strength has shifted to our air and naval forces. 


    This brings me to some of our conventional and strategic modernization programs, which continue to make up the overwhelming bulk of the department's procurement, research and development accounts. 


    Broadly speaking, there were several principles or criteria that governed, either in total or in part, most of my major program decisions. 


    The first was to halt or delay production on systems that relied on promising but as-yet unproven technologies, while continuing to produce and, as necessary, upgrade systems that are best in class and that we know work.  This was a factor in my decision to cancel the transformational satellite program and instead build more advanced, extremely high-frequency satellites; to halt the airborne laser at the R&D phase while increasing funding for the THAAD missile defense program; to cancel other programs where costs and requirements creep had spun wildly out of control -- the President's helicopter being a prime example.


    Furthermore, where different modernization programs within services existed to counter roughly the same threat or accomplish roughly the same mission, we should look more to capabilities available across the services.  While the military has made great strides in operating jointly over the past two decades, procurement remains overwhelmingly service-centric.  This was a major factor in the decision to cancel the Air Force's combat search and rescue helicopter, apart from its cost and development problems.


    Another important thing I looked at was whether modernization programs -- in particular, ground modernization programs – had incorporated the operational and combat experiences of Iraq and Afghanistan.  The problem with the Army's Future Combat Systems was that a vehicle program designed nine years ago did not adequately reflect the lessons of close-quarter combat and improvised explosive devices that have taken a fearsome toll on our troops and their vehicles in Iraq and Afghanistan.


    Finally, I concluded we needed to shift away from the 99 percent exquisite, service-centric platforms that are so costly and so complex that they take forever to build and only then are deployed in very limited quantities.


    With the pace of technological and geopolitical change and the range of possible contingencies, we must look more to the 80 percent multi-service solutions that can be produced on time, on budget and in significant numbers. 


    As Stalin once said, quantity has a quality all of its own.


    With regard to air supremacy, this budget increased funding for the fifth-generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighter by more than $4 billion dollars. This commitment will accelerate the F-35's development and testing regime to fix the remaining problems and begin rolling out these aircraft in quantity, more than 500 over the next five years, and more than 2,400 for all services.  We also will acquire 31 more FA-18s for the Navy in FY '10, and probably still more in FY '11.


    Similar considerations guided my thinking on shipbuilding, though I'm aware that other factors come into play.  A few months ago I was reading about Henry Knox, the first Secretary of War.  He was charged with building the first American fleet to help combat, of all things, overseas pirates. To get the necessary support from Congress, Knox eventually ended up with six frigates being built in six different shipyards in six states. So some things never change. (Laughter).


    Where the trend of future conflict is clear, I've made specific recommendations.  For example, I hope to accelerate the buy of the Littoral Combat Ship, which, despite its development problems, is a versatile ship that can be produced in quantity and go to places that are either too shallow or too dangerous for the Navy's big, blue-water surface combatants.


    As we saw last week, you don't necessarily need a billion-dollar ship to chase down a bunch of teenage pirates.  The size of a ship in such cases is less important than having Navy SEALs onboard.  To carry out the missions we may face in the future, whether dealing with non- state actors at sea and near shore, or swarming speedboats, we will need numbers, speed, and ability to operate in shallow waters.


    We must also examine our blue-water fleet and the overall strategy behind the kinds of ships we're buying.  The need to show presence and project power from a piece of sovereign territory called a United States Navy ship will never go away. But we cannot allow more ships to go the way of the DDG-1000, where, since its inception, the projected buy has dwindled from 32 to three, as costs per ship have more than doubled.


    One of the things that I'm recommending in this budget is to upgrade and build more Arleigh Burke destroyers, still a best-in-class ship that has been the workhorse of the U.S. surface fleet for nearly two decades, and a ship that has proven that it can be upgraded rapidly with new capabilities and technologies.


    The United States must not take its current dominance for granted and needs to invest in programs, platforms and personnel that will ensure that we remain preeminent at sea.


    But rather than go forward under the same assumptions that guided our shipbuilding during the Cold War, I believe we need to develop a more rigorous analytical framework, before moving forward, the type of framework that will be provided by the Quadrennial Defense Review. 


    That is one reason I delayed a number of decisions on programs such as the follow-on manned bomber, the next generation cruiser, as well as overall maritime capabilities. 


    The purpose was to develop an analytical construct through which we can more precisely determine what will be needed, in coming years, to determine what kind of tactics and strategies future adversaries, both state and non-state actors, are likely to pursue.  In this respect, it is important to keep some perspective. 


    For example, as much as the U.S. Navy has shrunk, since the end of the Cold War, in terms of tonnage, its battle fleet, by one estimate, is still larger than the next 13 navies combined.  And 11 of those 13 navies are American allies or partners. 


    In terms of capabilities, the over-match is even greater.  No country in the rest of the world has anything close to the reach and firepower to match a carrier strike group.  And the United States has and will maintain 11 until at least 2040.  I might also note that we have a number of expeditionary strike groups as well, which will in the not-too-distant future be able to carry F-35s. 


    Potential adversaries are well-aware of this fact, which is why despite significant naval modernization programs under way, in some countries, no one intends to bankrupt themselves by challenging the U.S. to a shipbuilding competition, akin to the dreadnought arms race prior to World War I. 


    Instead we've seen their investments in weapons geared to neutralize our advantages, to deny the U.S. military freedom of movement and action, while potentially threatening our primary means of projecting power: our bases, sea and air assets and the networks that support them. 


    This is a particular concern with aircraft carriers and other large, multi-billion-dollar blue-water surface combatants, where the loss of even one ship would be a national catastrophe. 


    We know other nations are working on ways to thwart the reach and striking power of the U.S. battle fleet, whether by producing stealthy submarines in quantity or developing anti-ship missiles with increasing range and accuracy. We ignore these developments at our peril.  


    The Royal Navy's greatest defeat in World War II, the sinking of the capital ships HMS Repulse and the brand new Prince of Wales by Japanese aircraft, just days after Pearl Harbor, was due in part to a command with little application -- appreciation for airpower and in particular the threat posed by a single, air-delivered torpedo. 


    I've also directed the QDR team to be realistic about the scenarios where direct U.S. military action would be needed, so we can better gauge our requirements.  One of those that will be examined closely is the need for a new capability to get large numbers of troops from ship to shore -- in other words, the capability provided by the marine Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle.  No doubt it was a real strategic asset during the first Gulf War to have a flotilla of Marines waiting off Kuwait City, forcing Saddam's army to keep one eye on the Saudi border and one eye on the coast.


    But we have to take a hard look at where it would be necessary or sensible to launch another major amphibious action again.  In the 21st century, how much amphibious capability do we need?


    Overall, we have to consider the right mix of weapons and ships to deal with the span of threats we will likely face.  The goal of our procurement should be to develop a portfolio, a mixture of weapons and capabilities whose flexibility allows us to respond to a spectrum of contingencies on and beyond the horizon.


    While there were many other issues that arose, and many other decisions that were made in this process over the last few months, I'd like to give plenty of time for your questions, so I'll close with a final thought.


    Right now, sailors around the world, at sea and on shore, in all kinds of settings, are doing extraordinary things to protect our country and defend our national interests, including a number of things that no doubt would have -- would have Alfred Thayer Mahan spinning in his grave.  Indeed, all of the services are challenged to find the right balance between preserving what is unique and valuable in their traditions while, at the same time, making the changes necessary to win the wars we are in and, particularly in the case of the Navy, to be prepared for likely future threats. 


    With this budget, I've tried to make a holistic assessment of capabilities, requirements, risks, and needs across the services.  I ask you to continue to do the same thing in your studies here and carry this kind of thinking to your future posts and commands.


    Just over 50 years ago, Admiral Arleigh Burke wrote of his beloved service, "The Navy believes in putting a man" -- and today we would add woman -- "in a position with a job to do, and let him do it, and give him hell if he doesn't perform. We capitalize on the capabilities of our individual people, rather than make automatons out of them.  This builds the essential pride of service and a sense of accomplishment.  And if it results in a certain amount of cockiness, I'm all for it."


    Looking forward to the challenges the American Navy will face in the years ahead, you have reason to be confident in your own abilities and in the traditions of leadership and excellence of this great institution.  Thank you for your being here this morning.  Thank you for your continued service to our country.   Thank you.  (Applause.) 


    Now I'd be happy to take your questions.


    Yes, sir?


    Q     Good morning, sir.  Thank you, first of all.  Captain Braswell, on the staff here.


    Along the lines of what you're talking in competition, one of the things that's kept the Arleigh Burke best in class was the fact that it had two builders.  I think the F-18 has probably exerted some downward pressure on the JSF costs.  American Airlines and United don't fly just Boeing or just Airbus, and they didn't buy just their aircraft 50 years ago.  So how is it that we can be sure that a sole-source, 50-year contract is going to get us the best Air Force tanker for the year 2060?


    SEC. GATES:  Well, I think that, first of all is I would look at it from the other perspective, and that is what are the consequences and costs of having two tankers?  First of all, the development costs alone over the next five years would probably grow from $7 billion to about $14 billion.  Having a sole -- having a split buy offers no opportunity to increase competition, and for them to put pressure on each other in their initial bids or in the way that they put together their proposals.


    I think that we are proceeding with a program that, once it gets started, actually is looking at three tranches of tankers:  the KCX, and then the KCY and the KCZ.  It seems to me that if we encounter problems -- the first buy is, I think, for 179 tankers.  If we encounter problems with those, it seems to me you're in a position to reopen the competition and go forward from there.


    But I think that if you go with -- if you go with a split buy and, in effect, guarantee everybody what they want, or guarantee everybody a piece of the action, any leverage that we might have in terms of cost control disappears.


    Yes, sir?


    Q     Good morning, sir.  Commander Jim Romano.


    With your visitation of each of the war colleges this week, and your educational background, I'm curious, your feelings on the state of professional military education and how the services are doing at promoting jointness and joint leadership.  Are we educating enough broad-scope, strategic-minded senior personnel able to lead in our future ambiguous fights of the future?


    SEC. GATES:  I think that the military professional education system probably has no parallel anywhere in the world.  And frankly, I wish we had something comparable to it on the civilian side. 


    One of the major themes in my budget proposals is to try and replace contractors with professional civil servants, particularly in acquisition.  The irony is, we have thousands and thousands of contractors supervising contractors, and particularly supervising acquisition.


    And so our plan is, over the next five years, to probably place up to 20,000 civilians in the acquisition -- professional civil servants in the acquisition world, starting with about 4,000 in FY'10. 


    I've discovered that I have more contractors in the Office of the Secretary of Defense than I do civil servants.  So we're going to also try and change out contractors for civil servants, and we hope to do -- start with about 13,000 in FY '10, replacing contractors.


    I go into all of that because I think that at a time when jointness and professional military education has never been better, we've allowed the civilian side of the department to atrophy and have lost capability there.  And so I think that if we can make these hires and if we can try and figure out a way to replicate what the military does in terms of professional education, I think we'll be in a lot better place. 


    I think one of things that probably helps the service schools and certainly helps the civilian side of the government is the participation of civilians in the government in some of your programs.  And I'm -- and I certainly encourage that.


    But military education goes well beyond that, as you well know.  I just spent part of the day Tuesday at Fort Rucker, looking at our efforts to train helicopter pilots, and to see how we can increase the throughput of helicopter pilots.  And we probably have not made an adequate investment in places like Fort Rucker, in terms of modern classrooms and so on, to not only teach the current numbers but much less our ability to increase those numbers significantly. 


    So there are a lot of different ways in which professional military education is carried out, and it seems to me that it has done a remarkable job.  And I think one of the things that is very positive is the continuing effort on the part of everybody involved to continue seeking to improve.


    Yes, sir?


    Q     Good morning, sir.


    Lieutenant Commander Schofield .  Asking you to look even further ahead now in terms of budgetary decisions in the future, asking you to look to the Arctic, do you believe that there is a place in your future budget decisions for assets or programs that specifically address the Arctic? 


    And as Secretary Clinton was at a conference last week specifically addressing issues in that region; there was a presidential directive signed in January, you know, asking us to sort of harness our efforts in that region, do you see areas where the Department of Defense can actually bring something to the fight in that region, especially a region where ice melt is opening up transit lanes, shipping lanes, where we're going to have more of an Arctic maritime domain awareness, to some degree?


    SEC. GATES:  Yeah, I think -- I think clearly we're going to have to do that.  I think we will -- we will need to do it in very close cooperation with the Canadians.  My Canadian counterpart has invited me to go up to the Arctic area this summer for us to begin to talk about how we might cooperate in that area.  So it's clearly -- with, as you say, the melt, the challenges up there and frankly the Russians' aggressive territorial claims and things like that make it an area that we're going to have to pay close attention to.


    Yes, sir.


    Q     Morning, sir.  Lieutenant Colonel John Scott Logel, the Department of Strategy and Policy.  You made several references to history in your discussion this morning.  We use several historical cases in the strategy and policy course here.  For example, this week we're looking at the decisions Great Britain made between World War I and World War II.  Which historical cases or situations do you think are most useful to consider when you think about American policy objectives and strategy in 2009?


    SEC. GATES:  I think the most significant lesson for -- from the 20th century that has weighed on me throughout a good part of my career and especially as deputy director and director of CIA and at the NSC and now at the Department of Defense -- one of my favorite sayings is that experience is the ability to remember a mistake when you make it again.  And -- (laughter) -- and one of the things that has happened to this country repeatedly in the 20th century is that at the end of a conflict or a war, we unilaterally disarmed.  We did it after World War I.  We did it after World War II.  In certain significant ways, particularly with respect to conventional forces, we did it after Korea, we certainly did it after Vietnam and we did it at the end of the Cold War.


    Today's Army, even with the increase in end strength, is 40 percent smaller than it was when I left the government in 1993.


    So every time we have come to the end of a conflict, somehow we have persuaded ourselves that the nature of mankind and the nature of the world has changed on an enduring basis, and so we have dismantled both our military and intelligence capabilities.


    And my hope is that as we wind down in Iraq, and whatever the level of our commitment in Afghanistan, that we not forget the basic nature of humankind has not changed and there will always be people out there who want to try and take our liberty away or the liberty of our friends and our partners, and that we sustain a level of investment in our national security capabilities that we can keep at a level to deal with a range of threats for as far into the future as we can see.


    A former secretary of State referred to the United States as the indispensable nation.  I believe it is.  No matter what happens around the world, nothing will happen if the United States does not take a leadership role.  We saw that in the Balkans in the early '90s, where the Europeans tried to handle it on their own and we basically had to a come in.  We've seen it time and time again.  We're seeing it with the pirates right now.  There is no significant international problem on which there can be real progress without the leadership of the United States, and that includes backing up our political leadership with the military might and the intelligence capabilities that make our political power real and possible.


    We want to partner with people.  There's a lot of things – even though we are indispensable as a leader, we can't do most of what we want to do by ourselves, and so the need to have allies, the need to have partners is critically important.  But we have to sustain – I think one of the significant lessons for all of us of the 20th century is, we cannot disarm as we begin to see these conflicts we're in today begin to wind down.


    Yes, sir.


    Q     Good morning, sir.  Lieutenant Colonel Waters.  I was just wondering -- in the workup to this budget, there was a report from the Lexington Institute that talked about there was a small group with you, including the service chiefs, that you had sign nondisclosure agreements in terms of how it was put together.  I was just wondering if that was true and if you are concerned that there's a perception of non-transparency in -- coming into this budget.


    SEC. GATES:  Absolutely.  (Laughter.) 


    It will come as no surprise to anybody in this room that the Department of Defense leaks like a sieve.  (Laughter.)  And it seemed to me what was critically important, as we considered dramatic changes in the way we were going to procure things and programmatic changes to specific programs, that we be able to have those deliberations among the senior military and the senior civilians in the department without the newspapers printing, every single day, the results of our deliberations the preceding day.  Because when those kinds of outside pressures come to bear, then the ability to -- of people to examine some of these issues, let's say, selflessly, outside the normal bureaucratic chain, if you will, I think is significantly inhibited. 


    I had -- we did not do this in a closed circle of a half a dozen people.  We had multiple meetings involving the service chiefs, the senior military leadership, the joint chiefs and the combatant commanders, as well as the senior civilians and PA&E and the comptroller's shop and so on.  We met probably three or four hours a day every day, virtually every day from January until April 6th, when I announced these decisions.


    I felt it was very important for us to have a collaborative effort where people could be honest with one another across the table and not feel defensive.  I also thought it was important for the service chiefs each to see that they weren't being singled out, that we were looking at the programs of all the services.  And frankly, it also gave us an opportunity to look at these issues strictly from the standpoint of what is in the best national-security interest of the United States, without looking over our shoulder at contractors and Congress and everybody else, and trying preemptively to see how we would get around their objections. 


    My goal -- and what I told the president at the outset of this --my goal is to present to him a budget independent of political considerations that focuses on what is in the best national-security interest of the United States.  We'll get into the political tradeoffs and the -- those issues once the Congress starts looking at this budget, but I didn't want to concede all that preemptively.  And I would have had to do a lot of that if people had been out leaking every single day.


    So what happened was, mostly it was the large staffs, further down the chain of command, that did not participate in the process the way it had in the past.  And I will tell you, a miracle happened.  In three months, there wasn't a single leak of any of our deliberations. 


    And frankly part of my purpose also was to be able to announce all of the changes at once, so that the impact of it and the range of it would have some impact, on people, that we were actually trying to do something different and that we were trying to make bold decisions that people had talked about for a long time.  But nobody had ever been willing to bite the bullet. 


    And I wanted the maximum impact of announcing it all at once.  And obviously if everything had dribbled out, over a period of weeks, that impact would have been lost. 


    I feel like I got great advice, for example, on Future Combat Systems, the whole front end of which, by the way, we are going to accelerate and deploy to the -- Increments 1A and 1B -- to the entire force, not just the original three brigades that were originally intended.  But on that one, I had multiple meetings with Secretary Geren and with General Casey, as we talked about it. 


    So I think that the chiefs and the combatant commanders and the senior military leadership felt that they had a significant part in this process.  And I would tell you that every decision that I have made, both the chairman and the vice chairman have concurred in. 


    Yes, sir. 


    Q     Thank you.  Good morning,  Mr. Secretary.  Based on recent discussions -- Pat Gibbons, FBI. 


    Based on recent discussions by Secretary Clinton and others in the administration, concerning greater emphasis on smart power when dealing with allies, friends and adversaries, do you foresee greater participation of the civilian interagencies, to complement or perhaps replace current initiatives or training presently conducted by U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan? 


    SEC. GATES:  I certainly hope so.  The problem is not a lack of will on the part of civilian agencies.  It is a lack of capacity.  We will spend more on health care in the Department of Defense, in FY '10, than the entire State Department and foreign assistance budget. 


    If you took every single Foreign Service officer in the world, you still would not have enough people to crew a single aircraft carrier.  So the question is whether this part of the government, which has been starved for resources, for decades, will finally receive the resources that it needs. 


    When the Agency for -- when I left government in 1993, the Agency for International Development had 15,000 employees.  They were expeditionary.  And they were experts.  Whether it was veterinary medicine or agronomy or digging wells or building schools and educational systems, they knew how to do all of that.  And they expected to be deployed.  And they had experience in developing in dangerous places all over the world. 


    Today, there are about 3,000 people in AID, and they're almost all involved in contracting.  So we stripped ourselves of that resource.


    The United States Information Agency was a huge factor, I believe, in our victory in the Cold War.  And now it's just a small part of the -- of the Department of State.  So the strategic communications capability of the government has been -- that played such a significant role in the Cold War -- is a pale shadow of what it used to be.


    Secretary Clinton has put in for these resources.  There have been increases in the State Department budget over the past half-dozen years or so.  Most of those budget increases, unfortunately, have been eaten up by increased security costs around the world for diplomatic installations and so on.  So there is a desperate need for more resources for the Department of State.


    But here's what happens:  Last fall, when they were trying to pass the FY '09 budget, the Department of Defense, Veterans Affairs, Department of Homeland Security and military construction all received an '09 appropriation.  The State Department was part of the continuing resolution, so no new programs could be funded for the Department of State until the passage of the omnibus bill just a few weeks ago -- couple of weeks ago.  So despite all the rhetoric on the Hill about the need to build civilian capacity, about the fact that the Department of Defense and soldiers were doing things that more properly and better could be done by civilian professionals, despite all that rhetoric, they still ended up on a continuing resolution.  So until they get the resources, the capabilities that everybody agrees we need for this country will not be forthcoming.


    Yes, sir.


    Q     Good morning, sir.  Lieutenant Commander McEwen .  I'd like to ask a question regarding the number-one threat to U.S. national security according to Admiral Blair, and that's the global economic downturn.  Last month, your office conducted a war game at Fort Meade in which the U.S. and other major world economic powers did an economic war.  I'd like to know if you could share with us some of the results and lessons learned that we as future planners could take with us to our next tours.  Thank you.


    SEC. GATES:  Well, I haven't been briefed in detail on it.  I think it was an eye -- but what little I do know about it is that it was an eye-opening experience and it also reflected some shortcomings in the ability and willingness of different parts of the government to share information openly. 


    And this is what often happens when we get out of our comfort zone in the national-security arena -- State, Defense, intelligence community.  We begin to get beyond that with Treasury and some of the other departments, and there's not the kind of history of collaboration, for all of the ups and downs of that, even in our own community.  And so I think that one of the things that General Jones is looking at doing in the National Security Council is figuring out how we can -- how we can bring to the national-security table more agencies that have a role in what we're doing and the things that concern us -- for example, Treasury -- and in a way that we can get better accustomed to dealing with one another.


    Now, Treasury has played a really important role in helping develop many of the sanctions that we have put together against both North Korea and Iran.  But in terms of dealing with some of the other, broader issues, the kind that you talked about, in terms of the overall economic threat and what are the risks to the stability of a variety of countries around the world, given the economic conditions, we need to do a better job of incorporating the agencies that deal with those issues into the national-security arena. 


    And I think, based on what little I know about the exercise, it illustrated some of the shortcomings in that and what we need to work on.


    Yes, sir.


    Q     Good morning, sir.  Commander Calvin Slocum.  We all celebrated the results of the outcome of the piracy issue that just happened the past week.  Do you see the problem being more of a maritime problem with a maritime solution, or is there opportunity for jointness?  And also, because the heart of the problem seems to be corruption and the economic windfalls that these pirates get, how -- if we show leadership, are we going to stem this problem if the other countries continue to pay ransoms?


    SEC. GATES:  Well, part of the -- part of the problem is that -- the number of companies -- not countries, companies -- that are prepared to pay the ransoms as a -- as part of the price of doing business.  And clearly, if they didn't pay the ransoms, we would be in a stronger position. 


    The impact of the dollars that these pirates get in their villages and for the individuals involved is staggering, because their home villages are unspeakably poor.  And the infusion of millions of dollars into these -- into the area through -- and with the corruption and everything else makes it a very attractive career field for a lot of poor young men who have no prospects. 


    And so my view is, in terms of the availability of people to engage in this activity, we can put a lot in jail and we can kill a lot, but there'll still be more.


    So I think there needs to be -- there needs -- it's a complex problem, and I think it involves both a maritime aspect that involves an enforcement and kinetic aspect.  But I think until we can do something to provide some kind of stability on land that -- and some prospects for these people, it's going to be a tough problem.


    And I think the analogy that I -- or the comparison that I used yesterday at the Army War College is that there was a significant piracy problem in the Straits of Malacca a few years ago, but there the bordering countries -- Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and so on --have strong governments and they are in charge of their own territory.  And on their own with our help, both equipment and training, they brought to bear maritime surveillance, patrolling and so on that actually significantly reduced the piracy problem in the Straits of Malacca.  Hasn't disappeared, but it's significantly reduced.


    Unfortunately, we don't have a government like that in Somalia, and we nearly don't have a government in Yemen.  So the surrounding territories are very difficult for us, in terms of having somebody to partner with.  Now, one of the things that I've -- some of our experts in OSD have thought about is whether we should increase or strengthen our relationship with some of the local governments in Somalia, such as the government up in Puntland that has somewhat more authority than the government in -- in its own area, than the government in Mogadishu.  But, you know, these are just some thoughts.


    We are engaged in working our way through this right now at the NSC, and under their auspices, in terms of what combination of strategies, both civilian and military, both private and public cooperation, we can do to at least make it a lot more dangerous and a lot tougher for the pirates, and then see if we can address the longer-term aspects of the problem.


    I wish I could give you a -- kind of a one-two-three, here's what we're going to do; but the truth of the matter is, I don't think we know yet.


    Yes, sir?


    Q     Mr. Secretary, I'm Commander Runi from Norway, one of the international officers here.


    And I first would like to tell you that it's -- surely it's a privilege to be part of the war college, sir.  It's a great war college you have here.  And it's a brilliant idea of bringing in some many international officers on one spot.


    And that is related to my question, because my question is about alliances.  It seems to me that the United States is decreasing its reliance on alliances, increasingly to give way to ad hoc coalitions.


    And my question is about NATO.  How will the U.S. adjust its course towards NATO when it seems that the military cooperation within the EU seems to increase, and also especially now that France has decided to again join the military cooperation within NATO?  Thank you.


    SEC. GATES:  Well, I think that -- I think the United States has actually been a stalwart in NATO.  My concern, frankly, is the number of countries in NATO that don't seem to be willing to accept their responsibilities as members of NATO.  Out of 28 countries now in NATO, I think six spend the requisite 2 percent of GDP on defense.  Most are at a percent or a percent and a half.


    We have a situation, for example, in Afghanistan where individual countries will put limits on how their forces can be used and whether they will even come to the aid of other forces.


    So I think one of the things that I've been trying to do in what seemed to be a limitless number of defense ministers' meetings, of limitless duration -- (laughter) -- is to try and encourage our allies to accept their full measure of responsibilities; that we are prepared to act within the framework of the alliance every time we possibly can, but that depends on the other members of the alliance being prepared to step forward and fulfill their responsibilities as well.


    Now, many have in Afghanistan, and it must be said that virtually every country in the alliance has fulfilled the commitments that they have made.  But the need is greater than the commitments, and that's the part -- it's that delta, that difference between what is needed and what people have committed to, that we need to work on.  And whether it's trainers for the police or contributing to the trust fund at NATO for sustaining and growing the Afghan National Army and Police, whether it is providing operational mentoring and liaison teams or Provincial Reconstruction Teams, there is a lot more that the alliance can do. 


    A lot of new commitments were made at the recent NATO summit.  I'm confident those commitments will be fulfilled.  But I can assure you the United States' commitment to NATO has not diminished in the slightest.


    On the other hand, there are a variety of problems around the world where NATO would not appropriately take action and where the United States will put together a coalition of countries that have a common interest in dealing with a particular problem.  This is probably the way that ultimately we will deal with the pirate problem.  It will be a coalition of nations willing to put ships in the area, and right now that includes Russian and Chinese ships, which is a good thing, in my view.


    So I think there's a difference between sort of obligations and commitments within the framework of NATO and then the variety of other international challenges where you may have a shifting number of countries that have a common interest in dealing with these issues.


    Yes, sir.


    Q    Sir, Major Sam Deputy.  Could you briefly talk to your vision for employing unmanned and increasingly armed and autonomous systems into our doctrine, and your vision of how specifically the ground systems could be employed in the future?


    SEC. GATES:  Sure.  I think that this is an area that we came late to.  I would tell you that 20 years ago, when I was -- a little less than 20 years ago when I was the deputy director for Central Intelligence, we tried to interest the Pentagon, and particularly the Air Force, in developing and employing UAVs.  And because it didn't have a pilot in it, there was no interest.


    We've made up a lot of lost ground.  And we have deployed a significant number of UAVs to Iraq and Afghanistan and a wide array of other platforms, both manned and unmanned, but often prop planes with sensor suites.  So we're not going for the most elegant solution in the world, but one that works and one that we can get into the field right away.  And I must say that over the last year or so, the Air Force has really stepped up to the plate in terms of increasing these assets, as has the Army.


    I think they are a big part of our future.  I mean, the reality is the Reaper -- back up.  An F-16 has a range of about 500 nautical miles.  A Reaper has a range of 3,000 nautical miles.  A Reaper can dwell -- has a dwell time over a target that can allow it to find and fix a target and then attack that target, by staying over it for a period of hours.   


    Those are capabilities that I think, whether you're dealing with narcotics traffickers or border situations or the kinds of conflicts we're in in Iraq and Afghanistan, have huge potential benefits for us.


    But I go back to what I was talking about in my prepared remarks.  What we need is a portfolio of capabilities. 


    We need F-22s.  We need about 187 of them.  We don't need 381.  But we also need the F-35.  And we need the UAVs.  And the combination of those three give the United States unparalleled airpower, tactical airpower.  But we have to think of things not as individual isolated systems or programs but a portfolio of capabilities.  And that gives us the maximum opportunity. 


    I'll give you another example for the ground forces.  One of the problems that I had, with FCS, with the vehicle program in FCS, was that a commander in the field, in Iraq or Afghanistan today, particularly in Iraq, as he thinks about the day's mission, has a choice between an up-armored humvee, an MRAP, a Stryker, a Bradley or a tank.  And he can pick and choose a mix of those capabilities for whatever the mission is that day. 


    And if this kind of flexibility that we see, out in the field, that we need to figure out how to bring into our procurement systems and figure out how we design things, based on the requirements that we see.  But the short answer to your question is, I think, UAVs are a big part of our future. 


    Yes, sir. 


    Q     Good morning, Mr. Secretary.  Commander Scott Mineo. 


    With people as our number-one strategic asset, I was curious if I could get your comments on our current policies, which seem to be kind of at odds with that, specifically a new G.I. Bill, which is strongly motivating for junior enlisted personnel to get out of the Navy and get paid pretty well for doing that, as well as a combination, with selective reenlistment bonuses recently being significantly cut, which would again motivate them more likely, to get out of the military rather than continue and become those senior leaders we need in the future. 


    SEC. GATES:  Well, one of my worries about the new G.I. Bill, when it was being discussed on the Hill, was exactly what you said, that it would provide such a generous education benefit that people would get out, as soon as they had fulfilled their commitments, and that we would have significant retention problems. 


    The argument on the other side was, well, it will help recruitment.  But my problem is, and your problem is, we don't want a military that's made up of people who serve one enlistment.  We need people who will stay for multiple enlistments. 


    So this was a concern that I had.  I tried to deal with it in two ways.  One, I tried to get a minimum of five years' service requirement for that education benefit.  That would require at least one reenlistment. 


    I was not successful in that. 


    But I -- there was another thing that we tried to do where we were successful.  And I actually had gotten the idea, initially, from a meeting with spouses at Fort Hood.  And one of the spouses asked me why a person in the military could not assign their education benefit to a spouse or child.  And I thought that was a terrific idea. 


    I talked to the president about it.  He put it in his State of the Union message a year ago January.  And after a lot of effort, we got that incorporated into the Webb bill.  And so I think it helps, because it provides that by the time -- it helps us in retention in the sense that it -- a member in the service can assign that capability, that benefit, to their children.  And so that means by the time they have somebody of school age, they probably have been in the military -- I mean of college age, they'll have children that have -- or they will have been in the military probably 20 years or so.  So I saw that; I hoped -- and I hope today -- that that will be an offsetting factor.


    In terms of reenlistment bonuses and so on, I think partly the services are looking at the marketplace right now, and I think we need to be very careful about this -- and this is something that I really haven't gotten much into -- but the -- to the degree I have, the variety of reenlistment bonuses, specialty bonuses and so on within each service and among the services are almost endless. 


    And so one of the things I learned at Fort Rucker is that Army flight pay for a helicopter pilot is significantly lower than Naval flight pay for a helicopter pilot.  And so you have a problem with Army pilots wanting to join the Navy.  Now, it's not a problem for the Navy, but it's a problem for the Army.  (Laughter.) 


    So this whole area is one that I think we need to take a close look at, and particularly at a time when the economy is in trouble.  It's obviously helped us with respect to enlistment, and the quality of our -- of those who are enlisting is basically at an all-time high.  The last few months, the Army's high-school graduation rate for their enlistees is now back up above 90 percent -- well above 90 percent.  So I -- it's a -- kind of a rambling answer to your question.  But there's a lot of complexity in this bonus business. 


    And I think it's something that the chiefs and I probably need to take a look at.


    One last question?  Yes, sir.


    Q     Good morning, Mr. Secretary.  Commander – Burke -- in the Joint Military Operations Department.  An acquisition-related question:  Are we taking advantage of commercial off-the-shelf technology enough?  It seems in the past 10 years we've trended more towards looking for the brightest, the fastest technology out there, and that seems to be creating a dependency with contractors now in the maintenance and repair of those, where we're not able to train our own people to do that. Your comments on that, sir?


    SEC. GATES:  I think we are beginning to take what is commercially available more seriously in the -- in the acquisition and procurement arena.  Frankly, I think that getting more civilian professional acquisition employees will create new opportunities for that.  Obviously, there's a certain inherent conflict of interest when you have contractors managing contractors and the desire to get the most technologically advanced and, by happenstance, the most expensive capability that you can.


    There are a couple of areas -- there were several areas, including in a couple of classified programs, as part of these budget decisions that I've just made where, in fact, we walked away from a very high-risk, high-technology capability and are going to buy something off the shelf that is commercially available.  And so I think there are some very real opportunities there and I think we should pursue them, in no small part because the technology will be proven and we will be able to get it cheaper.


    I will tell you that one of the interesting phenomena from my earlier career in intelligence was that until about 1984 or -5, the U.S. intelligence community and NSA and CIA in particular probably were the absolute cutting edge in terms of the use of computers with respect to data management.  And by about the mid '80s, it became clear that we were being surpassed by Microsoft and a variety of others who were way ahead of us.  And so 20 years ago or more, the intelligence community, and now the government more broadly, in a lot of software areas will buy off-the-shelf capabilities from the commercial world, because the truth of the matter is they're much more advanced than anything we could develop.


    And I'll just give you an example:  At one point we hired some guy from MIT who came to CIA.  He came in and saw our computer systems and just started laughing, he -- I mean -- and you know why. 


    So I think there are lot of opportunities here and it's just a --partly a matter of mind-set.


    Thank you all very much.  (Applause.)

Additional Links

Stay Connected