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Former U.S. Defense Secretary and Wichita native Robert Gates is warning against any further cuts in military spending, saying that would be catastrophic for America's defense.
Gates was back in his hometown Monday to speak to the annual meeting of the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce.
Gates met with reporters before the event. He said the Pentagon has done its part for the nation's financial challenges by cutting $900 billion over the next 10 years. He said the Pentagon can deal with that, but if sequestration were to take place with the federal budget, cutting another $600 billion from defense spending "would be catastrophic for the national security of the United States."
Gates said the world is becoming more turbulent, more unpredictable, and in some respects more dangerous.
"If we think foreign threats or foreign problems have just gone away because we want to focus on our domestic problems, we would be sadly mistaken," Gates said, adding the importance of "keeping the shield up, of sustaining a strong American defense in a very turbulent world, is critically important even as we deal with our budgetary problems."
Asked for his reaction to the recent resignation of CIA director David Petraeus, Gates would only say "it's a tragedy in every respect."
With several Cabinet members expected to step down before the second term of President Obama, there have been reports that Leon Panetta may step down as the current defense secretary. Gates had recommended Panetta as his successor. He said he doesn't have any ideas on who could replace Panetta.
He said it will be a tough search to find someone who understands the issues and can make the decisions that need to be made.