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Budget Recommendations Provide 'Home' for Warfighters, Gates Says

Jim Garamone - American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 7, 2009 - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates says the changes to the budget that he proposed yesterday will provide a "home" for warfighters that doesn't currently exist in the Pentagon's institutions.

The Defense Department has a set of institutions arranged largely to prepare for conflicts against other modern navies, armies and air forces.

"Programs to directly support, protect and care for the man and woman at the front have been developed ad hoc and ... funded outside the base budget," Gates said during a Pentagon news conference announcing his fiscal 2010 budget recommendations. "Put simply, until recently, there has not been an institutional home in the Defense Department for today's warfighter."

The most likely scenarios American servicemembers will face in the coming years is warfare such as that in Iraq and Afghanistan in which both conventional and unconvential, or irregular, tactics are used, Gates said.

"Our contemporary wartime needs must receive steady long-term funding and a bureaucratic constituency similar to conventional modernization programs," the secretary said. "I intend to use the fiscal 2010 budget to begin this process."

Conventional weapons systems have advocates for their long-range needs and points of view -- within the department and in industry, Gates said. For example, the F-22 Raptor has built-in advocates pushing for the program. There are Army offices specializing in the Future Combat System. But if warfighters need a capability like the mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle or new protective gear, there isn't a home for that.

Trying to put the Defense Department bureaucracy on an unconventional war footing has "revealed underlying flaws in the priorities, cultural preferences and reward structures of America's defense establishment," Gates said.

Gates said the Defense Department budget, with his recommendations incorporated, would break into roughly "10 percent for irregular warfare; about 50 percent for traditional, strategic and conventional conflict; and about 40-percent dual-purpose capabilities."

The decisions are not about irregular warfare putting the conventional capabilities in the shade. "This is just a matter ... of having the irregular-war constituency have a seat at the table for the first time when it comes to the base budget," he said.

The debate between conventional and irregular capabilities is artificial, Gates said. Most experts talk about "a spectrum of conflict in which you may face at the same time an insurgent with an AK-47 [assault rifle] and his supporting element with a highly sophisticated ballistic missile," he said.

They call this threat spectrum "complex hybrid warfare," he said.

The budget recommendations the secretary made strengthen the ability of the department to meet these threats. He said he does not want to supplant conventional capabilities with irregular capabilities.

"I'm just trying to get the irregular guys to have a seat at the table and to institutionalize some of the needs that they have so that we can get what they need to them faster, and so that we don't have go outside the Pentagon bureaucracy every time there's a need for the warfighter that has to be met in a relatively short period of time," he said.

The secretary said his conclusions were the result, in part, of a lifetime of experience in national security.

"I set out here to develop a budget and a program, really, that I thought best served the national security interests of the United States," Gates said. "And I, frankly, decided that I would not take the political issues associated with any of these programs into account. I would just do what I thought was best for the country.

"And my hope is that in the months ahead that, first, the president will approve this budget, and then second, that the Congress, after careful deliberation, will support as much of it as possible."

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