Paring the types of missions conducted by the U.S. military could reduce weapon purchases over the next decade, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said.
"Obviously, if you change strategies or missions, that has implications for the amount of equipment that you buy," Gates told reporters May 18. "I would expect that to apply across the board."
Gates revealed details about the DoD review of missions and capabilities ordered up last month by President Barack Obama to shape a $400 billion, 12-year cut to security spending.
"If we're going to reduce the resources of the size of the U.S. military, people need to make conscious choices about what the implications of that are for the security of the country as well as for the operations that we have around the world," Gates said.
As in the past, Gates reiterated the need for the fifth-generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, a new Air Force aerial refueling tanker and a Navy Ohio-class submarine replacement despite planned budget flattening or reductions.
The review will be led by Christine Fox, director of cost assessment and program evaluation; Michèle Flournoy, defense undersecretary for policy; and Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The review will focus on four areas Gates called "bins":
å Generating additional efficiencies. DoD identified $178 billion in efficiencies as it built its 2012 budget request. Since then, Gates had stressed the need to find more savings in specific areas, including logistics. But the Pentagon will not be able to find the amount of funding desired over the next decade through this method alone.
å Examination of policies, programs, processes and mandates "that drive the dramatic increase in defense operating costs," Gates said. This includes health care, retirement benefits, personnel compensation, infrastructure, and acquiring goods and services.
å Determine options for reducing or eliminating "marginal missions and marginal capabilities," according to Gates. This includes "specialized and costly programs that are useful in only a limited range of circumstances or contingencies."
For years, the Pentagon has maintained a policy of being able to fight two wars simultaneously.
"If you were to tell yourself the likelihood of having two such fights simultaneously is low and you could therefore plan to fight sequentially, that would have huge implications in terms of the size of the force that you need to maintain," Gates said. "But the other side of that is the risk involved if you're wrong."
å Specific modifications to the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) strategy "that translate into options for reductions in force structure or capability needed to execute the strategy," Gates said. This "bin" will be informed by the three other review areas.
"The new comprehensive review will ensure that future spending decisions are focused on strategy and risks and are not simply a math or accounting exercise," Gates said. "The overarching goal will be to preserve a U.S. military capable of meeting crucial national security priorities, even if fiscal pressure requires reduction in the force's size."
The "traditional approach" of applying across-the-board cuts would result in a "hallowed out force." Gates called this approach dangerous.
The review will be guided by the National Security Strategy, the National Defense Strategy, the National Military Strategy, the Chairman's Risk Assessment and the QDR. The review will establish an analytical link between the QDR and force make up, according to Gates.
Officials will make "strategic policy choices" that will inform budget decisions, he said.
"This process must be about identifying options for the president and the Congress where the nation is willing to accept risk in exchange for reduced investment in the Department of Defense," Gates said.
At the same time, Pentagon officials do not expect to finish the review until after the departure of Gates, according to a senior defense official. Gates has said he will step down at the end of June. He did not address the timeline for the review during the briefing at the Pentagon.
DoD officials are expecting the Senate to hold a confirmation hearing for Leon Panetta, Obama's nomination to replace Gates, as soon as June 7, according to Frank Kendall, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics.
Pentagon officials do not expect to finish the review until Panetta, the current CIA director, is confirmed, Kendall said during a May 18 presentation at a U.S.-Swedish defense conference in Washington.