In a surprise move, Defense Secretary Robert Gates has recommended $78 billion in military spending cuts over the next five years. The proposal includes slashing the number of private contractors by almost a third, nixing an amphibious tank known as the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, increasing health insurance fees paid by retired veterans and delaying production of a new generation of airplanes known as the Joint Strike Fighter program. "This plan represents, in my view, the minimum level of defense spending that is necessary, given the complex and unpredictable array of security challenges the United States faces around the globe," Gates said. The plan also constitutes the biggest military spending cut in the post-9/11 era. Here's how the Web is reacting to the announcement:

  • This Is a Good First Step  "As a proportion of what is needed to bring the U.S. government's fiscal house into order, Gates' proposal is barely a drop in the bucket," writes Logan Penza at The Moderate Voice. "But it does breach one of the sacred walls that have historically dominated budget negotiations in Washington D.C.-- military spending.  Gates' action represents a Republican (with full support of military leaders) volunteering to trim its own budget requests. Now if only we can get the recipients of entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security to join the chorus, we might have a chance."
  • I Don't Like the Sound of It, says House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif): "We are fighting two wars, you have China, you have Iran: Is this the time to be making these types of cuts?" He told The Washington Post, "I will not stand idly by and watch the White House gut defense when Americans are deployed in harm's way."
  • Let's Not Blow This Out of Proportion, instructs Derek Thompson at The Atlantic: "Gates is not proposing to shrink the Pentagon's budget; he's proposing to slow the growth of the Pentagon budget." In fact, the defense budget will grow "in absolute dollars" as the Army's size swells by 40,000 soldiers and the Marines add "7,000 to 12,000 more troops."
  • The Marines Deserved Cutting  "In recent years, the corps has moved from Chevrolet to Cadillac, pushing ahead with gold-plated plans to attack beaches with swimming tanks, short-take-off-and-landing airplanes, and tilt-rotor aircraft," writes Mark Thompson at Time. "Unfortunately, its budget can't keep up. That's why on Thursday Defense Secretary Robert Gates killed its $16 billion Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, and threatened to terminate its F-35B jump jet. Only its V-22 tilt-rotor emerged from this latest round of saber-wielding by the defense chief unbloodied." Here's a look at the branch's amphibious tank that Gates wants to cut:


  • Republicans Need to Embrace This, urges The Washington Examiner's conservative editorial board: "If the nondefense sector of the civilian bureaucracy can be cut (and it should be), Republicans can also take the ax to what Gates called the Pentagon's 40 percent bureaucratic overhead, as well as the multimillions of dollars in defense earmarks Congress appropriates despite Pentagon objections. Such cuts will rankle more than a few pork-barrel-addicted incumbents for now, but voters will reward the Republicans' courage if they dare to challenge the status quo."