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Secretary Gates, Actions Speak Louder than Words

May 14, 2010

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has gotten really good at making speeches that leave me filled with optimism that we really can begin reversing the militarization of U.S. foreign policy…only to crush my hopes a few days later by actions that speak louder than his words.  Just a couple days ago I was lauding a speech Gates gave in which he recalled Eisenhower and spoke strongly about the need to reign in today’s runaway military spending.

The attacks of September 11th, 2001, opened a gusher of defense spending that nearly doubled the base budget over the last decade, not counting supplemental appropriations for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Which brings us to the situation we face and the choices we have today – as a defense department and as a country.  Given America’s difficult economic circumstances and parlous fiscal condition, military spending on things large and small can and should expect closer, harsher scrutiny.  The gusher has been turned off, and will stay off for a good period of time.

It made me think we should be enlisting the Secretary of Defense in FCNL’s Our Nation’s Checkbook campaign!

But, then I start talking to Hill staff and and my heart is shattered into little pieces all over again.  Because even while Gates calls on reigning in the military and building up civilian capacities to help avert wars, the Pentagon that he directs is furiously lobbying Congress for more authorities to control more money in the federal budget – including funding for preventing deadly conflict and supporting development.

As Gordon Adams and Laura Hall write in this article, Secretary Gates’s proposal that DoD be given more of a role in interagency funds for prevention, post-conflict reconstruction, and security assistance is a direct affront to the principle of civilian-controlled government and undermines the efforts to build up the capacities of the State Department and USAID that he himself has been advocating.

Oh Secretary Gates, if only your actions spoke as loud as your words!

3 Comments
  1. Russell permalink
    May 16, 2010 4:34 pm

    A sad, but practical experience. Gates use of the Eisenhower statement to deter the “military-industrial” alliance as a force in our government is inappropriate. He is DoD’s chief salesman. And I think a recent FNCL e-mail reported that at least 1/3 of our Federal expenditures fall under his control.

  2. Martha W D Bushnell permalink
    May 23, 2010 3:28 pm

    It is time to change priorities in the US government. We must start supporting diplomacy and Conflict Resolution more.

    We must stop training military and police forces in other countries and supplying armaments to other countries. We must stop overthrowing legally elected governments in other countries.

    The US Defense Department must stop lobbying Congress for more moneys. It is time to reduce military spending and increase spending for diplomacy and Conflict Resolution.

    You can not stop the people who want to destroy parts of the USA by increasing military spending. You can reduce these attempts to destroy parts of the US by working for peace, conflict resolution, and diplomacy. I will be waiting for your reply.

  3. Russell permalink
    May 23, 2010 4:52 pm

    I agree with you on your priorities and your approach.

    The use of drones by our armed forces is something that can be replicated by others – drones launched from offshore and directed to anywhere on land. It’s time to call a halt to this kind of thinking. “We have found the enemy and he is us.” — Pogo

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