You can gripe about the Obama administration’s not-a-pullout of Iraq, failure to close Gitmo, backing down on wiretapping, rolling over on the Patriot Act like a trained poodle, and generally fucking the Constitution with a Bush mask on. But one area where the administration really, truly gets it is in trying to tackle the bloated defense budget. I was initially wary of Obama’s reappointment of Defense Secretary Robert Gates, a Bush appointee, when it was announced. But honestly, it’s proven to be one of the best picks of his administration, because Gates is the first in what will hopefully be a long line of defense secretaries that will prepare our military for the wars we’re fighting and the wars we’re likely to fight, not some sci-fi jackoff scenario where China goes nuts and launches ze missiles. Or, in less sarcastic terms, spend a smaller amount of total cash on stuff the military actually needs.
Gates pushed back on buying more F-22 fighter jets, and the next target in his sights is the generals. The New York Times reports:
Two weeks ago, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates announced a sweeping effort to improve efficiency that, among other things, takes aim at the military’s sacrosanct corps of generals and admirals. He ordered his staff to cut at least 50 positions and made clear that he would be happier if they cut more.
“The department must start setting priorities, making real trade-offs and separating appetites from real requirements,” said Mr. Gates, who has made management efficiency his latest personal goal in a tenure that focused first on Iraq, then Afghanistan and later on overhauling the approach to weapons procurement.
Speaking as a military brat here, this is exactly the kind of shit that’s needed to happen for as long as I can remember. The generals are all too often the very epitome of the phrase “absolute power corrupts absolutely” and while I’ve known good generals, I’ve also known, and the bases I’ve lived on have been all too keenly aware of, the bad ones. They’re unstoppable, they’re insufferable and quite frankly they’re unnecessary in many cases.
The American military now has 100 more generals than it did on 9/11, and it can’t really be the case that we need over 900 generals, each costing the nation about $1 million apiece, to prosecute the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as local affairs. We can cut back. Halving the amount of generals would let us buy more and better equipment for the troops on the front lines, spend more money repairing the nation’s infrastructure, or even pay down the debt.
Now, if only Gates would take a poll of servicemen to find out which generals are the worst and most wasteful at their jobs…