by Ralph Peters [author, novelist]

God bless Bob Gates: Our secretary of defense can’t be bought, can’t be bullied and can’t be fooled. And he values our men and women in uniform.

“This is a reform budget,” the SecDef stated yesterday as he unveiled the Pentagon’s new priorities. He insisted that we must “critically and ruthlessly separate appetites from real requirements.”

Translation: We need to give our troops the numbers and gear they need, not the gilded garbage defense-industry cartels foist upon us — on loan-shark terms.

Gates appears to have made the right call on every single issue. And, instead of beginning with a focus on big-ticket weapons, he started by highlighting the needs of those who serve.

This SecDef wants to stop cutting troops to “save” money, only to funnel the funding to well-connected contractors. The Army and Marines will get their promised end-strength increases, while the Navy and Air Force won’t cut more sailors and airmen.

He stressed the criticality of medical research and long-term care for our wounded — including those suffering psychological trauma.

In a break with the practice of handling soldiers as a nuisance in supplemental spending bills, Gates aims to fund our troops’ needs up front. We’ve never had a more committed defender of our men and women in uniform.

Laying out his overall priorities, the SecDef put flesh-and-blood first, “rebalancing” weapons programs second and acquisition reform third. He wants to protect people; buy only affordable, necessary weapons that actually work — and stop the legal corruption that rips off the taxpayers and arms our troops with junk.

Here’s how each service would fare:

Army: The Army’s home-front bureaucrats, sniffing for good retirement jobs, have tried to turn their service into a ground-bound version of the Air Force, elevating elegant technologies above combat realities. Ignoring soldier psychology and the need for robust gear, the techies went bonkers.

The Future Combat System, a suite of lightly armored vehicles that couldn’t protect soldiers from land mines or old-fashioned artillery, is supposed to magically deflect future weapons our enemies don’t have. FCS would ask young soldiers to ride into battle trusting invisible “armor.” And it packs pathetically little killing power, relying on “precision strike,” a green-suit version of the “shock-and-awe” con that flopped so comprehensively.

Gates just said, “No.” Useful technologies under development will be exploited, but this platinum-plated disaster won’t enter the inventory. The SecDef demanded feasibility, affordability and battlefield utility. Tomorrow’s warriors will thank him.

The SecDef also wants an Army of 45 “full up” Brigade Combat Teams that won’t need to scrounge for added troops when going to war. That’s better than fielding the programmed 48 BCTs that would have to rely on bureaucratic press-gangs to fill their ranks.

Navy: Gates took a leather strap to the Navy’s backside — a long-overdue move.

The Navy remains our pre-eminent service and the US remains an essentially maritime power. But Navy shipbuilding programs had degenerated so disastrously that no vessels joined the fleet on time, all ran over budget and few worked as advertised. The greatest Navy in the world was building ships that not only couldn’t do much damage to an enemy, but couldn’t even protect themselves.

Gates wants ships that can fight. He’ll kill a dysfunctional high-tech destroyer program, with the Navy going back to buying DDG-51 destroyers that actually work. The troubled Littoral Combat Ship buy will go ahead — it’s just badly needed. The builders will have to shape up, though. And aging subs will be replaced.

Our SecDef wants our Navy to move at combat speed again.

Air Force: Hallelujah! The millions of dollars spent on advertising, lobbying and outright lying to force the Pentagon to buy more F-22 fighters didn’t work. The buy of the F-22 — an aircraft so fragile the Air Force fears sending it to war and with maintenance needs that give it a readiness rate below 60 percent — is being capped at 187.

Gates knows we need a strong Air Force — he just doesn’t want the wrong Air Force. He supports extending our air supremacy by embracing the more-affordable F-35 fighter, funding 513 over the next five years.

He put a new manned-bomber program on hold until the justifications, specifications and costs make sense. But he wants re-bids on a replacement tanker aircraft as soon as possible — to fill a genuine need.

The Marines: New amphibious-capability programs are waterlogged. Gates insists they make technical and budgetary sense before the dollars hit the beach.

The SecDef made many other good calls. He wants 2,800 more special-operations personnel; more useful intelligence capabilities; more support for our hard-working helicopter fleets; more missile-defense systems that actually protect troops; more cyber-war capability; 50 more Predator and Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles (the drones the terrorists dread), and thousands more in-house watchdogs to put the brakes on contractor cheating.

Of course, to realize his dream of a reformed acquisition process and a warrior-centered military, Gates needs the support of Congress. And Congress is a greater threat than China. The heroic work of the greatest public servant of our time is now at the mercy of our nation’s most-pompous thieves. ExileStreet

NY Post / copyright 2009 NY Post

Ralph Peters is Fox News’ strategic analyst. His latest book is “Looking For Trouble: Adventures in a Broken World.”

Ralph Peters is a retired Army officer and the author of 19 books, as well as of hundreds of essays and articles, written both under his own name and as Owen Parry. He is a frequent columnist for the New York Post and other publications.


  1. Stryker Soldier Says:

    Since you left the Army in the early 1800s Mr. Peters, let me bring you up to speed on what is in the field and correct your Blog:

    We now use digital tools and computers on the battlefield for real time location and data transfer between Tactical Operation Centers (TOC) and Soldiers. If you consider these improvements a “ground-bound version of the Air Force” so be it. I use these tools in my everyday life as a Soldier; it must make me a wimp in your eyes. Maybe you could write a “back at Bragg” story in your next Blog and how the “hard Army” just uses a compass and map.

    Is the MRAP “gilded garbage?” After all it was developed by “industry cartels.” Shame on those “well-connected contractors.” for helping protect Soldiers.

    I expected more from you then just the standard bashing of the FCS program. If the only reasons you can come up with for cancelling FCS man vehicles is armor, then you have been asleep at the wheel. A freezer loaded with HME under a M1A2 will blow the turret off or a Stryker in half. Why aren’t the pundits crying lack of armor on the M1 or Stryker?

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