* Obama wants to save $400 billion in defense spending
* Pentagon says Gates unaware of decision until Tuesday
* Gates, due to step down, has warned against deep cuts
WASHINGTON, April 13 The United States would
have to abandon some military missions and trim troop levels if
President Barack Obama presses ahead with new proposed defense
cuts, the Pentagon said on Wednesday.
Obama announced a goal of saving $400 billion on security
spending by 2023 as part of a larger objective of cutting the
U.S. budget deficit by $4 trillion. [ID:nN12216395]
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, a holdover from the
Republican Bush administration who is expected to step down
later this year, has warned repeatedly in the past against
further deep cuts in defense spending.
Minutes after Obama announced his austerity plan, the
Pentagon renewed those concerns even as Gates endorsed Obama's
commitment to a thorough review before making any cuts.
Obama has pledged that his budget reductions will not
compromise national security.
Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said Gates "has been
clear that further significant defense cuts cannot be
accomplished without reducing force structure and military
The Pentagon said Gates was not informed of Obama's
decision on budget cuts until Tuesday. Morrell said the issue
would not affect the timing of Gates' expected retirement.
The Pentagon said it would conduct a broad review of its
missions, capabilities and "America's role in the world,"
identifying alternatives for Obama's consideration.
"The secretary believes that this process must be about
managing risk associated with future threats and national
security challenges and identifying missions that the country
is willing to have the military forgo," Morrell said.
Obama's announcement of proposed defense cuts immediately
set off alarms in Congress, where the Republican chairman of
the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee, Howard
McKeon, said he had "grave concerns" about such large spending
reductions while the U.S. military was involved in Iraq,
Afghanistan and Libya.
The Defense Department accounts for roughly 20 percent of
U.S. federal spending and roughly half of discretionary,
non-mandated spending -- making it an attractive target in
Washington for lawmakers seeking spending cuts.
Gates has warned over the past year against deep defense
cuts, and tried to get ahead of calls for them by spearheading
his own efficiency drive.
Gates in January said the United States planned to cut $78
billion in defense spending over five years, including a
reduction of up to 47,000 troops. Those cuts came on top of
$100 billion cost-savings drive that Gates kicked off last year
to eliminate waste, cut poorly performing weapons programs and
redirect the money to other priorities. [ID:nLDE7060K4]
"My greatest fear is that in economic tough times that
people will see the defense budget as the place to solve the
nation's deficit problems," Gates said last August.
"As I look around the world and see a more unstable world,
more failed and failing states, countries that are investing
heavily in their militaries ... I think that would be
(Reporting by Missy Ryan and Phil Stewart; Editing by Will