US closure of Joint Forces Command marks shift to thrift

By Zhao Chenyan (People's Daily Online)
Updated: 2010-08-20 14:21
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U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Aug. 9 that he recommends dismantling the Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Va. in a major defense spending cut plan. President Barack Obama applauded the recommendation and said it was "another step forward in the reform efforts" and the move will "reduce excess overhead costs, cut waste and reform the way the Pentagon does business."

However, what was behind this action?

First, the United States has started to slow down its military expansion. Gates stressed in his proposal that the United States was "still fighting two wars, confronts ongoing terrorist threats around the globe and faces other major powers investing heavily in their military."

He warned that although President Obama had programmed in real growth of between 1 and 2 percent into defense budgets for the coming years, it is not enough to maintain today's fighting capabilities and modernize the military, which requires roughly 2 to 3 percent.

"The savings in overhead are crucial to making up that difference," Gates said, "and the defense ministry will find more than $100 billion in overhead savings over the next five years."

In light of recent announcements that the country will withdraw from Iraq before the end of August and the agreement between the United States and Russia to sharply reduce nuclear weapons, it is easy to see that the United States has started to slow down its military expansion as it is bogged down in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and facing a difficult economic and fiscal situation.

Second, the U.S. Army has begun to promote thrift and efficiency. U.S. defense spending currently stands at over 6 trillion dollars and its defense department is one of the world's largest military agencies.

Gates listed a long string of cuts, including eliminating the Joint Forces Command, closing some military bases, freezing the number of offices of the secretary of defense, reducing defense agency and combatant command manpower positions, cutting at least 50 general and flag officer positions and eliminating 150 senior civilian executive positions.

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