Robert Gates's latest efforts at reforming the Pentagon are modest. He is not trying to cut the defense budget; he merely wants to increase efficiency while reducing bureaucracy, waste and duplication. The savings he is trying to achieve are perfectly reasonable: $100 billion over five years, during which period the Pentagon would spend approximately $3.5 trillion. And yet he has aroused intense opposition from the usual suspects -- defense contractors, lobbyists, the military bureaucracy and hawkish commentators. He faces spirited opposition from his own party, but it is the other Republicans, not Gates, who are abandoning their party's best traditions in defense strategy.
Can anyone seriously question Gates's ideas on the merits? He has pointed out that the spiraling cost of defense hardware has led to the absurdity of destroyers that cost $2 billion to $3 billion per ship and bombers that cost $2 billion per plane. He notes that while the private sector has eliminated middle management and streamlined organization charts, the Pentagon has multiplied its layers of bureaucracy. A decade ago, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld complained that there were 17 levels of staff between him and a line officer. Gates guesses that there are now about 30.