US defence cuts mean 'hard decisions': Gates



US defence cuts mean `hard decisions`: Gates Washington: Defence secretary Robert Gates has said that fiscal pressures on the US military's budget will require sacrificing some missions abroad and scaling back pay and benefits.

Gates, who is due to step down at the end of June, urged military and civilian leaders to face up to harsh realities about the future size and role of the armed forces amid a push to contain the country's huge deficit.

"To shirk this discussion of risks and consequences -- and the hard decisions that must follow -- I would regard as managerial cowardice," Gates said on Tuesday.

Speaking to an audience of defence hawks at the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute, Gates argued that reducing Pentagon waste and overhead costs would not be enough to reach President Barack Obama's goal of USD 400 billion in security budget cuts over the next 12 years.

Instead, meeting Obama's objective likely will require reducing the size of the military, eliminating some "lower priority missions" overseas and reforming military pay, pensions and health care, he said.

The Pentagon needed to be "honest" about the consequences of downsizing the force of 1.4 million: "That a smaller military, no matter how superb, will be able to go fewer places and be able to do fewer things," Gates said.

With troop pay and benefits eating up an ever larger share of the defence budget, Gates also said the Pentagon needed to find savings in an area that has remained politically off-limits.

PTI