Military budget is getting a $78bn cut, announced US defence secretary Robert Gates (photo).
The cuts, which include a move to scrap a $13bn plan for amphibious vehicles, are part of a five-year spending plan for the Defence Department that goes beyond the $100bn in internal savings already announced.
Although those savings are to be reinvested in modernising weapon systems, the new cuts reduce the overall defence budget.
While the plan comes, new Congress is taking office amid concerns about the deficit.
On Thursday, Gates said he planned to cancel the purchase of amphibious Expeditionary Fighting Vehicles (EFVs) from manufacturer General Dynamics Corp.
Those vehicles have long been targeted by Gates as a way to shrink the military’s budget. They can transport 17 fully-armed troops to land from approximately 20-25 miles offshore and are manoeuvrable both on land and water.
Because of modern warfare changes, Gates has been sceptical on whether large military vehicles, such as tanks and EFVs, will still be crucial military instruments.
According to him, the enemy has developed sophisticated weapons allowing attacks on ships waiting close to shore.
‘Culture of endless money’
Plans to cut orders for the F-35 joint strike fighter over the next three to five years are also among the cost-cutting measures announced by Gates, in order to compensate for repeated delays in development and testing
But money will also be saved by eliminating more than 100 general and flag-officer positions, as well as more than 200 top civilian defence positions, by cancelling redundant programmes and through reduced administrative costs.
Gates said he wanted to end the post-9/11 Pentagon’s “culture of endless money where cost was rarely a consideration”.
However, the major weapons cuts will probably encounter opposition from US congressmen and senators in whose constituencies the arms are manufactured.
“I’m not happy,” House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard McKeon told reporters, adding that the cuts were greater than defence companies had been expecting.