* Gates warns against 'short-sighted' defense cuts
* Pentagon reduces war funding in fiscal 2012 budget
By Phil Stewart and Susan Cornwell
WASHINGTON, Feb 16 U.S. Defense Secretary
Robert Gates warned Congress on Wednesday against making deeper
spending cuts than those already proposed, telling lawmakers
"we still live in a very dangerous and often unstable world."
Defense is one of largest chunks of the U.S. budget but
Republicans, who made big gains in November's congressional
elections with a message of austerity, so far have shown little
appetite for paring back military spending at a time of war in
Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Pentagon last month unveiled plans to cut $78 billion
in defense spending over five years. Gates, a holdover from the
Bush administration who plans to step down as defense secretary
later this year, pushed back against some lawmakers wanting
even bigger reductions.
"We shrink from our global security responsibilities at our
peril," Gates told the House of Representatives Armed Services
"Retrenchment brought about by short-sighted cuts could
well lead to costlier and more tragic consequences later --
indeed as they have in the past."
The Pentagon this week formally rolled out a record base
budget for fiscal year 2012 of $553 billion, up $22 billion
from the level enacted for 2010. But additional overseas war
funding is down $41.5 billion. [ID:nN14279656]
Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,
acknowledged the military must become more efficient and
disciplined given a soaring national debt that he said was "our
greatest threat to our national security."
"If we as a country do not address our fiscal imbalances in
the near term, our national power will erode and the costs to
our ability to maintain and sustain influence could be great,"
"We must carefully and deliberately balance the imperatives
of a constrained budget environment with the requirements we
place on our military in sustaining and enhancing our
Gates said the military still needed to remain strong and
agile enough to face threats ranging from militants to states
"developing new capabilities that target our traditional
He cited Iran and North Korea, whose nuclear and missile
programs have alarmed the West, as well as China, whose heavy
investments in defense appear directed at countering U.S.
military capabilities in the Pacific.
"Surely we should learn from our national experience since
World War One, that drastic reductions in the size and strength
of the U.S. military make armed conflict all the more likely
with an unacceptably high cost in American blood and treasure,"
(Editing by John O'Callaghan and Mohammad Zargham)