Gates' defense budget makes sweeping cut

NEW YORK Mon Apr 6, 2009 3:11pm EDT

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates during a news conference at the Pentagon, December 2, 2008. REUTERS/Larry Downing

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates during a news conference at the Pentagon, December 2, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Larry Downing

NEW YORK (Reuters) - After months of debate about the future of U.S. warfare, Defense Secretary Robert Gates unveiled a fiscal 2010 budget plan that made a number of sweeping cuts to big-ticket, politically charged programs.

The following are comments from military and aerospace experts on Gates' recommendations:

COMMENTS:

RICHARD ABOULAFIA, AEROSPACE ANALYST, TEAL GROUP, FAIRFAX, VIRGINIA

"It was a surprise but just enough of a tactical victory to keep the F-22 going and allow political pressure to be brought to bear.

"And on the C-17, of course, Boeing has time to take its case to Congress, which has traditionally provided the funding to keep the program going over the past few years. The name of the game is to make this a Congressional battle."

RICHARD TORTORIELLO, AEROSPACE AND DEFENSE ANALYST WITH STANDARD & POOR'S EQUITY RESEARCH

"I'm negative on the defense industry and his speech didn't change anything.

"There was good news for Lockheed Martin. The F-22 in the Gates budget would be capped at 187 planes, that is not what Lockheed Martin was hoping for. But the budget significantly increases funding for the F-35, the joint strike fighter. That's great news for Lockheed.

"But, overall I think that we're going to see budgetary pressure squeezing a program here and a program there. The basic message is targeted cuts."

U.S. SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN, REPUBLICAN, ARIZONA IN A RELEASE

"I strongly support Secretary Gates' decision to restructure a number of major defense programs. It has long been necessary to shift spending away from weapon systems plagued by scheduling and cost overruns to ones that strike the correct balance between the needs of our deployed forces and the requirements for meeting the emerging threats of tomorrow.

"Today's announcement is a major step in the right direction. I believe Secretary Gates' decision is key to ensuring that the defense establishment closes the gap between the way it supports current operations and the way it prepares for future conventional threats."

ALEX P. HAMILTON, SENIOR MANAGING DIRECTOR, JESUP & LAMONT, NEW YORK

"The only program termination that I heard that sort of surprised me was C-17. It just surprised me in the sense that I know that's something that kept living on, but from everything I've hard there is a need for it. I don't think it's a very large program at this point.

"But it obviously speaks to the fact that it's now a bill-paying program. I was surprised by Future Combat System ... I was a little surprised by the $87 billion that they want to reassess."

ADMIRAL MICHAEL MULLEN, CHAIRMAN OF THE JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF, IN A RELEASE

"Programs that aren't performing well are getting the scrutiny they deserve.

"And a struggling industrial base is getting the support and the oversight it warrants."

(Reporting by Kyle Peterson, Karen Jacobs and David Morgan)