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Gates Announces Sweeping Changes, Cuts in Defense Budget

Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced large cuts in the Pentagon budget that would slash spending on missile defense and traditional war technologies and increase funding for new weapons systems designed to fight insurgencies. An analyst discusses the changes.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    At the Pentagon today, Defense Secretary Robert Gates unveiled a plan to make major cuts and shifts in military spending. Gates said the military needs to shift its focus from conventional warfare to insurgencies.

    ROBERT GATES, secretary of Defense: This budget represents an opportunity, one of those rare chances to match virtue to necessity, to critically and ruthlessly separate appetites from real requirements, those things that are desirable in a perfect world from those things that are truly needed in light of the threats America faces and the missions we are likely to undertake in the years ahead, an opportunity to truly reform the way we do business.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Ray Suarez has more.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    Secretary Gates proposed stopping or cutting some big-ticket items: stopping production of the F-22 fighter jet at 187 planes; canceling a new fleet of presidential helicopters; scaling back the Army's modernization program called Future Combat Systems; as well as changes in missile defense.

    The proposed $534 billion budget would require approval from Congress, and big fights are anticipated in states where job losses might loom.

    For more, we go to James Kitfield, national security correspondent for National Journal.

    And, James Kitfield, there have been rumors about targeted weapons systems for months.

  • JAMES KITFIELD, National Journal:

    Right.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    When the secretary finally announced the cuts, were there surprises?

  • JAMES KITFIELD:

    I think the scope of what he announced is surprising. I mean, everyone focused on the F-22 because that's a very high-profile program. He had talked about capping it. There was going to be a battle over that with Congress already.

    But he came out and, you know, a lot of the top 10, top 20 major programs he announced either cuts to or scaling back of. So I think the people who've been following this, like myself, knew that Gates was frustrated. He has said for quite a while that this whole — he calls it "next-war-itis," where the Pentagon constantly looks to modernize its conventional forces for the next big war, you know, they kind of like and don't really focus on sort of giving him the tools to win the wars we're in, in Afghanistan and Iraq.

    That has been very frustrating to him. I think he was also frustrated by the cost growth in these programs. GAO has recently said that the top 100 programs are over budget by $300 billion, which is a pretty staggering number.

    So those frustrations have been building in Gates. I think what we found out today was exactly how frustrated he is.

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