Secretary Gates's speech in Kansas sounds as though budget axes will be falling all over the Department of Defense. In an homage to Dwight Eisenhower, Secretary Gates said "what I find so compelling and instructive was the simple fact that when it came to defense matters, under Eisenhower real choices were made, priorities set, and limits enforced." I'm in favor of cutting defense spending to help get America's fiscal house in order, and commend Secretary Gates for turning his attention to budgetary discipline.
But both the Kansas speech, and the Naval Institute speech he delivered a week prior (in which he also questioned procurement programs), had an odd ring to them. You wouldn't know by listening to these speeches that Gates has had the ability these past three years to accomplish any of the work he deems essential. Neither he nor the administration has yet given us a strategy that defines what they believe the United States needs to do in the world, how our military activities fit into that broader framework, and what size and type of military we therefore need.