Gates Says Soldiers in Afghanistan Will Not Be Under-Funded

Defense Secretary Robert Gates says soldiers, including Alaskans, fighting in Afghanistan will not be given short-shrift during the coming troop draw-down. Gates assured Senator Lisa Murkowski Wednesday that a reduction in money for the Afghanistan War effort will not leave soldiers under-funded or under-supported.

Murkowski asked Gates about the plans Wednesday at a Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee hearing. She brought up the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team at Fort Wainwright in Fairbanks, which just saw a massive deployment of more than 4,000 troops to Afghanistan.

Gates responded that the money that will be saved will come from sending fewer troops overseas, not from skimping on support for the forces still there. Gates is leaving the job of Defense Secretary at the end of this month, but says that commitment comes from the highest levels.

Wednesday’s testimony on Capitol Hill was likely Gates’ last appearance before members of Congress. He advocated for a smaller, more mobile military, and said President Obama’s goal of cutting $400 billion over 12 years means real cuts, not just finding efficiencies. He also warned that military health costs are not sustainable without charging higher fees or reducing benefits.

The Defense Secretary announced he’s put an end to the controversial “stop loss” program, which kept soldiers in the Army against their will after their commitment was up, because the Army couldn’t afford to lose them.

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