The Cold War Takes a Hit

The war
that ended 20 years ago has lived on in a menu of weapons systems we
have continued to develop, modify, and build at ever increasing cost,
if not utility, since then. Defense Secretary Robert Gates'
announcement of significant cuts in several of those systems signals
that in a new administration and a severe fiscal crisis, this Cold War
legacy may finally be winding down.

In his speech last month to a joint session of Congress, President
Barack Obama promised to "reform our defense budget so that we're not
paying for Cold War-era systems we don't use." This budget makes a
down-payment on that promise. It proposes the most ambitious set of
cuts to well-entrenched weapons systems since the early '90s.

Among its targets:

  • the F-22 fighter jet, which the most impressive PR campaign in history couldn't save;
  • the DDG-1000 Destroyer, which the Navy tried to cancel last year;
  • Future
    Combat Systems, which is lurching and straining under the weight of its
    enormous complication, unproven technology, and massive $150 billion

At the same time, this budget perpetuates the overall upward
trajectory of defense spending. Though Gates has been promising that
"the spigot of defense spending after 9-11 is closing," this budget
exceeds all of the Bush administration's budgets that preceded it. And
it leaves barreling through the pipeline such unneeded programs as the
Virginia Class submarine and the V-22 Osprey, which then-Defense
Secretary Dick Cheney tried to kill in 1992.

The Task Force on a Unified Security Budget for the United States (USB) outlined
a set of $60.7 billion in reductions to the FY2009 defense budget, and
made the case for why these cuts could be made with no sacrifice to our
security. Here is how the Secretary's budget stacks up to those

Scorecard - Gates's Proposed Cuts vs. Unified Security Budget Recommendations

Administration's FY 2009 Request

USB Proposed Change

Gates's Proposed FY 2010 Budget

F/A-22 Raptor




Ballistic Missile Defense




Virginia-Class Submarine



no change announced




as little as -1.5, as much as -3.2

V-22 Osprey



no change announced

Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV)



no change announced

F35 Joint Strike Fighter



plus 4.4

Offensive Space Weapons




Future Combat Systems



minus 0.77, plus 87 billion in future savings for cancelling ground vehicle component

Research & Development




Nuclear Forces



no change announced

Force Structure



no change announced, but 11 billion in future savings for one less carrier

Waste in Procurement and Business Operations






8.6 to 10.3, with 98 billion in future savings

(figures in billions)

Thus, the cuts announced today represent a down-payment on the USB recommendations in the amount of between $8 and $10 billion.

It's a start. The president's commitments to negotiate a reduction
in our nuclear arsenal down to 1000 warheads, and to get serious about
acquisition reform, will bring more.

Meanwhile, preserving even these cuts won't be easy. This tree
falling in the forest has made quite a sound, in the form of howls of
protest from major contractors echoing through congressional halls even
before Gates finished speaking.

© 2023 Foreign Policy In Focus