Former Defense Secretary Gates, speaking in Tulsa, says no easy answers on US defense
BY WAYNE GREENE World Senior Writer
Wednesday, October 24, 2012
10/24/12 at 3:03 PM
Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates says some of the issues debated in Monday night's presidential debate can't be wrapped up in a few pithy words.
For example, how big should the U.S. Navy be? Republican Mitt Romney says it needs to be bigger. President Barack Obama says the important thing is ability, not numbers.
Gates' answer, delivered before his Wednesday speech at the OSU Business Forum in Tulsa: "It's not a question ... that is answerable in a bumper sticker."
Gates served as director of the CIA and as defense secretary to President George W. Bush and to Obama.
Obama is right that a single U.S. aircraft carrier today is more powerful than the entire navy before World War II, but Romney is correct that Navy officials have been pushing for more ship-building money and have some aging Reagan-era ships that must be replaced, Gates said.
Much of Monday's debate centered on what the biggest threat to national security is.
Again, Gates said there is no simple answer.
On one level, the biggest threat to U.S. power is the weak national economy.
"At some point, insolvency at home becomes strategic insolvency," he said.
On the other hand, the nation faces a broad range of threats, including China, North Korea, Iran, al-Qaida and Afghanistan.
"There is not just one challenge fundamentally to prepare for," Gates said.
Regardless of the winner in November's election, Gates said he won't be returning to the Cabinet.
"I gave at the office," he said with a laugh. "Thanks but no thanks."
Former defense secretary Robert Gates says the pledge of allegiance before speaking at the OSU Business Forum Wednesday in Tulsa. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World