Hugh Pickens writes: "Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates is expected to announce a far-reaching overhaul of the Pentagon's annual $500 billion-plus budget, including likely cuts in missile defense programs, in the Army's expensive Future Combat Systems and in Navy shipbuilding. Defense experts say that Gates is likely to cut $1 billion to $2 billion from programs for defenses against missiles, and that Boeing's airborne laser system, which would equip a modified 747 jetliner with a laser to shoot down missiles, might be killed. Officials say they expect Gates to go ahead with plans to buy four more of the Air Force's advanced F-22 fighter jets although the bigger question was whether he would support earlier plans by the Air Force to buy 20 more in fiscal 2010 and possibly an additional 40 in the following two years. Gates is expected to end a Navy program to build a $3 billion stealth destroyer, and there may be a temporary reduction from 11 aircraft carriers in service to 10. "Everybody seems to be focusing on that he's making cuts. He's going to be adding a lot of things to capabilities that we need too," says Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman. Gates has argued that the military is still too oriented toward fighting a peer nation like China and hasn't devoted enough resources toward preparing for irregular, low-intensity conflicts that he sees continuing into the near future."
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