Gates's Scalpel

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has been all about trimming the defense budget lately, but he is not happy with the recommendations of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform which calling for $100 billion in defense cuts to help bring the deficit down. At the Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council yesterday, Gates called their specific suggestions, which included canceling an F-35 and production of the Osprey, “math, not strategy.” He said the cuts need to be made “with a scalpel instead of an ax.”

Also yesterday, Gates warned about the “huge future threat and … considerable current threat” to digital networks that is presented by the “cyber world.” Security has been beefed up on the military’s networks and they’re working on bringing defense contractors into the fold as well. He said that the Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security have over the past month started to work more closely with the National Security Agency on domestic cyber security issues, since the NSA is “the only defense the United States has … against nation states and other potential threats in the cyber world." Of course, using the NSA on the domestic front raises questions about privacy and civil liberties.

And that’s not all. Gates had a lot to say yesterday. The defense secretary commented on the effectiveness of Iran sanctions. He said that the leaders in Tehran “have been surprised by the impact of the sanctions.” Not only that, but the sticks are causing a rift to form between Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Evidence suggests that the supreme leader is worried President Ahmadinejad is “lying to him about the impact of the sanctions on the economy.” Gates also spoke out against a military strike. He said it would only serve to unite Iran against Western countries, and that “the only long-term solution in avoiding an Iranian nuclear weapons capability is for the Iranians to decide it's not in their interest. Everything else is a short-term solution.”

Senator John Kyl may be threatening to stop START, but Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is determined to see the treaty through to ratification. She’ll draw on some of the knowledge she gained during her time in the Senate when she meets with congressional leaders later today. The administration is hoping to secure ratification of the treaty before the new Republican faces come to the Hill in January.