Small Surprise

By John Liang / July 1, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Defense Secretary Robert Gates was asked yesterday whether he was surprised by how little Capitol Hill resistance has been mounted against some of the major defense program funding cuts he proposed for his department's fiscal year 2010 budget request. According to the DOD transcript, he replied:

A little bit. But I think that, you know, the chairman ((of the Joint Chiefs of Staff)) and I have done four hearings, appropriations and authorizers, but the service secretaries and the service chiefs have done a lot of hearings and so has -- and ((Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff)) General ((James)) Cartwright has done a lot of briefings on missile defense, for example. And so I think that between our hearings and -- but especially hearing directly from the service chiefs and the service secretaries I believe has undoubtedly had a positive impact on the Hill in terms of hearing the services' views on these changes and their involvement in the process and their belief that we're headed in the right direction.

Despite a veto threat from the White House, Senate authorizers last week included language in their version of the fiscal year 2010 defense authorization bill to continue the production of F-22A fighter planes above levels requested by the Obama administration. Another potential sticking point could be the Future Combat Systems program, Gates said:

Well, I've indicated to some of the chairmen and the ranking minorities of the committees what I -- issues that I think would be a problem. I'm not going to detail what that list is but I'll give you one more example. It'll be the vehicle program for Future Combat Systems. But so far -- you know, the truth of the matter is, we haven't seen the full Senate Armed Services Committee mark yet, but based on what I've been told about the House part and the partial information I have about the Senate mark, the F-22 and the second engine for the F-35 seem to be about the only main issues where they have gone anywhere different than what we put forward.

So based on the mark we've already seen from the House and what I've heard about the Senate, with those exceptions, I think we've actually done pretty well.