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Never Give Up, Round 2

11:58 AM, Apr 17, 2009 • By THOMAS DONNELLY
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Defense Secretary Robert Gates continued his whirlwind world tour of service war colleges, speaking at the Army's Carlisle Barracks yesterday. He also repeated the punch-line about the rescue of the captain of the Maersk Alabama from Somali pirates "not requiring a billion-dollar ship," although the SEAL snipers who shot the pirates were on the deck of the billion-dollar USS Bainbridge.

But the pirate take-down is even less of a vote of confidence for Gates's cuts than I thought: The SEALs arrived on the scene by parachuting out of a C-17 cargo aircraft--the C-17 being yet another program that Gates wants to terminate. Seems that even piracy missions--particularly those that require a rapid, global response with extremely limited assets like SEAL snipers who can parachute from high altitudes, climb into a rubber boat (that probably also had to be dropped from the C-17) and concentrate for long spells waiting for the command to shoot--find useful employment for expensive technologies and forces. The Obama defense budget cuts call into question whether the United States will have such an impressive array or sufficient numbers of such forces in the future.

Finally, it's worth noting the amazing lack of inquisitiveness of the mainstream press on these questions. Not only are they infatuated by Gates (whose "bold" stance of cutting advanced programs comports with their own biases), but no one seems to have asked how the SEALs materialized at the critical moment. The only other comment I've been able to find on this came from Bryan McGrath, a self-described "43-year-old University of Virginia graduate who spent 21 years in the world's greatest Navy keeping my mouth shut about politics"--though he admits "those days are over." You can read Bryan's account target=_blank>here.