Secretary of Defense Robert Gates delivered a speech defending his budget recommendations this morning at the Air University at Maxwell AFB. It was the same event where Gates nearly a year ago launched his slash-and-burn campaign against entrenched USAF attitudes, saying that negotiating budgetary priorities with service leaders was like “pulling teeth”.
Since then, Gates has purged the USAF’s top civilian and militaryleaders. Their replacements have publicly backed Gates’ recommendationto halt F-22 production well short of the USAF’s previous “medium-risk”minimum of 243.
Not surprisingly, Gates’ speech this year gave “credit where credit isdue” for the USAF’s sudden priority shift , with combatair patrol orbits of Predators and Reapers rising from 32 to 34 and asecond schoolhouse standing up to prepare more UAV crews for actionfaster.
Gates again justified his recommendation to cancel the replacement forthe USAF’s aging combat search and rescue (CSAR) helicopters, sayingthe CSAR-X was not sufficiently “joint”. And he defended his F-22decision. With the F-35, the US military should have about 1,000fifth-generation fighters by around 2020, when China is expected toobtain its first such aircraft, Gates says.