TODAY'S PAPER
56° Good Morning
56° Good Morning
Opinion

EDITORIAL: Gates' move to cut spending is a welcome attitude change

The five-sided money pit called the Pentagon is famously resistant to cost containment. So Secretary of Defense Robert Gates deserves a salute for at least starting the conversation about bringing its spendthrift ways under control.

Make no mistake: The flow of money will still be vast: $700 billion-plus proposed for the coming year. And the savings that Gates has been talking about would come to a mere $100 billion over five years, if Congress lets him get away with it.

But at least Gates is making the right point. On Monday, he said he'd close a big bureaucracy, the Joint Forces Command in Virginia; cut the number of generals and admirals; and reduce reliance on civilian contractors. That won't be easy - generals and contractors all have congressmen - but he said it right: "The culture of endless money that has taken hold must be replaced by a culture of savings and restraint."

That endless money leads to procurement abuses such as the infamous $640 toilet seat. It led former Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to complain that the Pentagon couldn't account for $2.3 trillion in spending. A later Pentagon study pegged the vanished money at a mere trillion, but still, not exactly petty cash.

To those who argue that cost-cutting puts us in danger, the answer is this: Profligate spending doesn't guarantee national security, but it does weaken us economically. The Pentagon must be held as accountable for how it spends its cash as any other agency. hN

Comments

We're revamping our Comments section. Learn more and share your input.

Columns