- By Thomas E. RicksThomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Greg Jaffe, the new kid on the Washington Post block, has a great profile of Defense Secretary Gates in that newspaper today. It tells you a lot about Gates, beginning with this explosive opening: When Gates travelled to Dover Air Force Base in March to receive some war dead incoming from Afghanistan, he was told they had been killed in a Humvee hit by a roadside bomb. Gates snapped, “Find out why they haven’t gotten their goddamn MRAPs yet..”
But the biggest chunk of news is after the jump, when Jaffe reveals that last year all the service chiefs formally nonconcurred with Gates’ decision in the National Defense Strategy to take on additional risk in the area of conventional warfare in order to focus the military more on irregular fighting. Gates heard out the Chiefs and then put aside their concerns. To do that, he had to be pretty confident in his own views-and also probably pretty persuaded that the Chiefs are out of touch.
Jaffe also deftly recounts how Gates reached down into the guts of the Air Force’s UAV program to get it to yield more resources to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. When told that UAV pilots needed time to drive one hour to a town to ear, go to the bank, and pick up kids at a day care center, Gates put aside money to get those amenities on their base. Jaffe has an Air Force officer who was involved complaining: “I was having to justify my organization down to the gnat’s ass just about every week.” My thought: Good for Gates. This sort of micro-managing is what Winston Churchill did occasionally during World War II, especially when he felt the organization was using small things to block his larger goals.
Good for Gates, and good for Jaffe. I am glad to see him in my old slot at the Post.
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