Why cant our leaders be like Robert Gates?

The following is a small part of a speech given by US SecDef, Robert Gates, to the Economic Club of Chicago on 16 July:

"Of course, after September 11th, some things did change. The base defense budget – not counting spending for the wars – increased by some 70 percent over the next eight years. During this period there were important changes in the way U.S. forces were organized, based and deployed, and investments were made in new technologies such as unmanned aerial vehicles. However, when all was said and done, the way the Pentagon selected, evaluated, developed, and paid for major new weapons systems and equipment did not fundamentally change – even after September 11th.

Indeed, the kinds of equipment, programs, and capabilities needed to protect our troops and defeat the insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan were not the highest priority of much of the Defense Department, even after several years of war.

I learned about this lack of bureaucratic priority for the wars we are in the hard way – during my first few months on the job as the Iraq surge was getting underway. The challenges I faced in getting what our troops needed in the field stood in stark contrast to the support provided conventional modernization programs – weapons designed to fight other modern armies, navies, and air forces – that had been in the pipeline for many years and had acquired a loyal and enthusiastic following in the Pentagon, in the Congress, and in industry. The most pressing needs of today’s warfighter – on the battlefield, in the hospital, or at home – simply lacked place and power at the table when priorities were being set and long-term budget decisions were being made.

So the most important shift in President Obama’s first defense budget was to increase and institutionalize funding for programs that directly support those fighting America’s wars and their families. Those initiatives included more helicopter support, air lift, armored vehicles, personnel protection equipment, and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets for our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition, we also increased funding for programs that provide long-term support to military families and treatment for the signature wounds of this conflict – such as traumatic brain injury and post traumatic stress."

I have the rest of the speech too - it's a bloody good read (unless you're a supporter of F22). I was left wondering why our politicians can't express themselves as clearly as this guy. What I like about it is that it focuses on the current war and the need to do the best by all who fight it (and will go on fighting it) and also on future threats, rather than the one or t'other approach that we seem to have. Having a defence budget that equals the rest of the World's combined might help I suppose........ :x

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