This editorial appeared in The Kansas City Star.
In his recent recommendations for Pentagon spending, Defense Secretary Robert Gates wants to shift more money to dealing with irregular warfare, and away from preparations for conventional fights.
In broad terms this makes sense, given the nature of the ongoing combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. Even so, defense planners must ensure that preparation for conventional war isn't shorted. Gates' recommendations take some risks in that direction.
On the positive side, Gates would cap the F-22 program at 187 planes – an appropriate move, given the $143 million cost of each plane. At the same time, he called for a speed-up in development of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which will be built in much greater numbers.
Gates wisely urged cancellation of a new helicopter to ferry the president and vice president, a program that had ballooned to $13 billion. He also rightly halted development of a costly new Navy cruiser and a futuristic new ground vehicle for the Army.
He would add 2,800 special forces troops. More money will be spent on developing electronic sensors for soldiers and training of more foreign military units. He would purchase more unmanned aircraft, such as those used against insurgents in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq.
More questionable were recommended cuts in missile defense, where Gates, among other things, canceled purchases of additional interceptors. With Iran and North Korea determined to press ahead on the ballistic missile front, cutting back here may be troubling.
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