Military Cuts 'Aggressive:' Defense Secretary

By Alicia Dean
|  Friday, Aug 13, 2010  |  Updated 5:15 PM PDT
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Military Cuts 'Aggressive:' Defense Secretary

AP

Robert Gates

While visiting Marines in San Diego, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Friday he is pleased with the military services' initial recommendations for cutting their budgets and spending the savings on weapons modernization.

Gates called the services' cuts and reinvestment priorities ambitious and aggressive.

"Because they get to reinvest savings, they're highly motivated to make it work," the Pentagon chief said.

Gates praised the military response to his plan in comments to reporters during a visit to San Diego's Marine recruit depot. There, he welcomed a group of 196 Marines who had just completed a 13-week basic training course.

As the new Marines stood under the bright sun with a breeze rippling palm trees behind them, Gates praised the "uncommon perseverance" they showed in making it through basic training.

Gates told the recruits he feels a personal responsibility to do what he can to give them what they need to accomplish their mission. That's why he's keeping a close eye on defense spending.

He says it's important to keep the size and scope of the Corps mission in check so that it doesn't become another land army.

Gates said U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan are almost at maximum capacity. As the surge peaks this fall Gates warned success will come at a heavy cost.

The armed services and the Pentagon's agencies were ordered to find $100 billion in spending cuts and savings over the next five years.

Some of the proposed cuts have already drawn fierce opposition from members of Congress whose districts would be affected.

Six members of Virginia's congressional delegation wrote to Gates Friday warning that Gates' call to close the Joint Forces Command, located in their state, would cripple American combat capability, wreck southeastern Virginia's economy and sidestep federal base closing procedures.

Sens. Jim Webb and Mark R. Warner and Reps. Bobby Scott, Randy Forbes, Rob Wittman and Glenn Nye wrote that it was "deeply disturbing that you would apparently act on a recommendation that reflects superficial research and a lack of analytical rigor."

Gates also visited with the crew of USS Higgins as well as U.S. Navy Seal recruits in training during his stay in San Diego.

Later he was flying to Whidbey Island Naval Air Station in Washington state.

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