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Gates Likes Military's Initial Budget Cut Proposals

SAGAR MEGHANI   08/13/10 08:24 PM ET   AP

Robert Gates Budget Cuts

SAN DIEGO — Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Friday he is pleased with the military services' initial recommendations for cutting their budgets and spending the savings on weapons modernization.

Gates called the services' cuts and reinvestment priorities ambitious and aggressive.

"Because they get to reinvest savings, they're highly motivated to make it work," the Pentagon chief said.

Gates has ordered the services and the Pentagon's agencies to find $100 billion in spending cuts and savings over the next five years.

Some of the proposed cuts have already drawn fierce opposition from members of Congress whose districts would be affected.

Six members of Virginia's congressional delegation wrote to Gates on Friday warning that Gates' call to close the Joint Forces Command, located in their state, would cripple American combat capability, wreck southeastern Virginia's economy and sidestep federal base closing procedures.

Sens. Jim Webb and Mark R. Warner and Reps. Bobby Scott, Randy Forbes, Rob Wittman and Glenn Nye wrote that it was "deeply disturbing that you would apparently act on a recommendation that reflects superficial research and a lack of analytical rigor."

Gates' press secretary, Geoff Morrell, said that Gates is "sensitive" to concerns and that eliminating the command will create some difficulties for Virginia. But he said Gates believes the actions are necessary to addresses the overall interests of the military and ensure adequate investment in forces and weapons modernization.

Morrell said Gates rejects the argument that the action requires a base closing commission. "We are eliminating an organization, not closing a base," the spokesman said.

Gates praised the military response to his plan in comments to reporters during a visit to San Diego's Marine recruit depot. There, he welcomed a group of 196 Marines who had just completed a 13-week basic training course.

As the new Marines stood under the bright sun with a breeze rippling palm trees behind them, Gates praised the "uncommon perseverance" they showed in making it through basic training.

Later he was flying to Whidbey Island Naval Air Station in Washington state.

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