(HOST) Commentator Bill Seamans says that before Defense Secretary Robert Gates retires, he wants to make some fundamental changes to the US military.
(SEAMANS) Gen. David Petraeus in several interviews this week gave his latest review of the Afghanistan war – And in his careful don’t-pin-me-down military-speak, he reported some vague momentum but it was hard to find any substantive change in his remarks – and Petraeus suggested that the large troop withdrawal scheduled to begin next July that he reportedly assured President Obama would happen will not happen. But that word CHANGE has been easy to find in recent remarks by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who says he aims to retire next year.
If Gates does pack off on the book-writing and speaking trail he will certainly leave a blaze of changes behind. Gates recently ordered a review that could change the future role of the Marines that has aroused anxiety among the Corps and the thousands of Marine veterans about the future of their beloved brotherhood.
There’s deep concern, Gates said, that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have turned the Marines into what he called a "second land army" which the Marines do not want to be.
Thus Gates’ review will try to resolve what the 21st century combat role of the Marines should be. It’s said their historic mission against fortified coastal targets to open the gates for the Army has become obsolete because of the changing nature of insurgency warfare. Gates said the Marines "have become too heavy and too removed from their expeditionary roots" and Marine traditionalists agree.
Gates also is trying to upgrade the Pentagon’s way of conducting business. He wants to increase efficiency, reduce bureaucracy, waste and duplication to save $100 billion over the next five years – a kind of Sisyphean mission. And Gates also has rattled Pentagon brass proposing that 50 generals or admirals be phased out because he sees a top-heavy command with too many layers of staff slowing down critical decisions. The number of generals and admirals has grown to about a thousand in the past 15 years although the armed forces have shrunk.
The Washington Post points out that Gates is an admirer of Dwight Eisenhower whose portrait hangs behind his desk. Echoing Eisenhower’s warning about a "military-industrial complex" Gates reminded an audience that Eisenhower was – Gates said – "wary of seeing his beloved republic turn into a muscle-bound, garrison state – militarily strong but economically stagnant and strategically insolvent."
Just how much change Gates can effect before he retires is, as we said, a truly Sisyphean challenge as he pushes that huge rock up the Pentagon hill. His legacy will say he surely tried.