WASHINGTON -- In a parting shot by one of the nation's longest-serving Pentagon chiefs, Robert Gates on Tuesday warned that shrinking defense budgets will mean a smaller military and a diminished American role in the world.
Gates, a self-described "old Cold Warrior" who will retire next month, said that barring a catastrophic world conflict or a new threat to the very existence of the U.S., there will be no foreseeable return to the booming Pentagon budgets of the past decade. "The money and the political support simply aren't there," he said.
This means the Obama administration and Congress must now decide how much military power the U.S. should give up, how that fits U.S. goals for maintaining global influence, and how to pay for it, Gates said.
"A smaller military, no matter how superb, will be able to go fewer places and be able to do fewer things," he said in a speech at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative-leaning think tank that is generally hostile to defense cuts.