ABILENE, Kan. – Warring against waste, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in a speech Saturday he is ordering a top-to-bottom paring of the military bureaucracy in search of at least $10 billion in annual savings needed to prevent an erosion of U.S. combat power.

He took aim what he called a bloated bureaucracy, wasteful business practices and too many generals and admirals, and outlined an ambitious plan for reform that’s almost certain to stir opposition in the corridors of Congress and Pentagon.

“The Defense Department must take a hard look at every aspect of how it is organized, staffed and operated — indeed, every aspect of how it does business,” he said at the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum, in the former commander in chief’s hometown.

Gates was the keynote speaker at a ceremony marking the 65th anniversary of Nazi Germany’s surrender in World War II.

The library was a fitting setting for Gates to caution against unrestrained military spending. In his farewell address to the nation in January 1961, President Eisenhower famously warned of the “grave implications” of having built during World War II an enormous military establishment and a huge arms industry that could wield undue influence in American society.

“Eisenhower was wary of seeing his beloved republic turn into a muscle-bound, garrison state — militarily strong but economically stagnant and strategically insolvent,” Gates said..

Gates said he’d recently come to the conclusion about the urgent need for big cuts in light of the recession and the likelihood that Congress no longer will give the Pentagon the sizable budget increases it has enjoyed since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

“The gusher has been turned off and will stay off for a good period of time,” he said.

He also suggested that his personal involvement would make this effort different. “When I devote a lot of my time things tend to get done,” he said.

The current defense budget, not counting the cost of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, is $535 billion; the administration is asking for $549 billion for 2011.


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