Gates Criticizes Bloated Military Bureaucracy

USS Kitty Hawk makes port call to Tokyo
Aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk is pulled by tug boats upon return to the Yokosuka US naval base, Nov. 27, 2007.
Toshifumi Kitamura/AFP/Getty
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates shook up the Pentagon this weekend with a speech targeting waste in the military budget. CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reports on what the secretary's speech might mean for everyone from generals and admirals on down

Gates has frequently complained the Pentagon bureaucracy takes too long to field critical pieces of equipment like predator drones and mine resistant vehicles. But in a speech this weekend he upped the ante.

"The Defense Department must take a hard look at every aspect of how it is organized, staffed and operated - indeed every aspect of how it does business," the defense secretary said.

Speaking at the Eisenhower Library, which houses the records of the president who famously warned about the military-industrial complex, Gates ticked off example after example of Pentagon bloat.

"Overhead, broadly defined, makes up roughly 40 percent of the department's budget," he said.

He described a top-heavy bureaucracy where generals hang on to their jobs long after the need has vanished.

"Two decades after the end of the cold war led to steep cuts in U.S. forces in Europe, our military still has more than 40 generals, admirals or civilian equivalents based on the continent," Gates said.

Gates said health care costs are "eating us alive," going from $19 billion to $50 billion in 10 years. He even took a shot at pay for the troops, up 42 percent since the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq began - better than civilians have fared.

Not counting those wars, the Pentagon budget has almost doubled in the last decade even though no other country is remotely close in military power.

The last time a defense secretary tried to take on the Pentagon bureaucracy was September 10, 2001. On that day, Donald Rumsfeld said, "Money disappears into duplicative duties and bloated bureaucracy."

Two wars and one economic meltdown later, Gates says it's past time for the Pentagon to take a hard look at how it operates.

  • David Martin

    David Martin is CBS News' National Security Correspondent.