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Gates axes some costly weapons, emphasizes 'irregular' warfare

Defense secretary applies lessons of Iraq, Afghanistan to new Pentagon budget.

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In a dramatic departure from tradition, Defense Secretary Robert Gates unveiled a Pentagon budget Monday that aims to help the US fight a hybrid form of warfare – one in which an insurgent with an AK-47 rifle is backed by a sophisticated ballistic missile.

Defense spending traditionally reflects conventional threats, posed by countries such as China or perhaps Iran. But Secretary Gates's $534 billion budget recommends billions of dollars for the counterinsurgency needs of unconventional conflicts such as Iraq and Afghanistan, while making broad and controversial cuts to weapons programs such as the F-22 stealth fighter that Gates sees as part of an outdated, cold-war mind-set.

"I'm not trying to have irregular capabilities take the place of conventional capabilities," Gates said Monday. "I just want the irregular guys to have a seat at the table."

This "reform budget," he said, is an opportunity "to critically and ruthlessly separate appetites from real requirements – those things that are desirable in a perfect world from those things that are truly needed in light of the threats America faces and the missions we are likely to undertake in the years ahead."


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