Be More like Ike
Zakaria, Fareed, Newsweek
Byline: Fareed Zakaria
Republicans should heed Robert Gates.
Robert Gates's latest efforts at reforming the Pentagon are modest. He is not trying to cut the actual defense budget; he merely wants to increase efficiency while reducing bureaucracy, waste, and duplication. The savings he is trying to achieve are perfectly reasonable: $100 billion over five years, during which period the Pentagon will spend approximately $3.5 trillion. And yet he has aroused intense opposition from the usual suspects--defense contractors, lobbyists, the military bureaucracy, and hawkish commentators. He faces spirited opposition from his own party, but it is the Republicans, not Gates, who are abandoning their party's best traditions in defense strategy.
Can anyone seriously question Gates's ideas on the merits? He has pointed out that the spiraling cost of defense hardware has led to the absurdity of destroyers that cost $2 billion to $3 billion per ship and bombers that cost $2 billion per plane. He notes that while the private sector has eliminated middle management and streamlined organization charts, the Pentagon has multiplied its layers of bureaucracy. Nearly a decade ago, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld complained that there were 17 levels of staff between him and a line officer. Gates guesses that there are now about 30 levels.
Gates has proposed initial reforms that include dismantling one command and eliminating 50 generals. To put this in context, we have almost 1,000 generals and admirals, a number that has grown 13 percent in 15 years, even as the armed forces have shrunk. Every layer of Pentagon bureaucracy is much larger than it was at the height of the Cold War. Prof. Paul Light of New York University's Wagner School of Public Service notes that in 1960 we had 78 deputy assistant secretaries of defense. Today there are 530. Gates likes to point out that there are more musicians in U.S. military marching bands than members of the Foreign Service. In fact, the Pentagon has 10 times as many accountants as there are Foreign Service officers.
Any thoughts of broader reforms or even budget cuts seem inconceivable, despite the tremendous pressure on the federal budget. While some Democrats have taken up this cause, most Republicans are blindly opposed. …