That's a quote there.
I'll be the first to suggest that our Military-Industrial Complex is still stuck somewhere beteeen 1975 and 1989 in terms of its strategic thinking, when it comes to forecasting what our potential adversaries may be and how to fight them. After all, the USAF pushed for the
F-22 Raptor air-superiority fighter despite the fact that few of our potential adversaries can field anything comparable (honestly, where was the Iraqi Air Force in 2003? Or the Afghan Air Force in 2001?) and at a hideously high cost per unit.
And the Air Force isn't the only branch with this big-ticket problem. The Navy unveiled its new Virginia-class submarine; at $8.1 billion a pop it'll do a wonderful job against al Qaeda's navy - oh, wait. Al Qaeda doesn't have a navy. The Marines have the V-22 Osprey, which has had so many teething problems you'd think the Germans after WW2 left the plans around as revenge for losing the War. A story surfaced that the Osprey is used only for ferrying VIPs - who won't be missed from the war effort should the plane crash.
Gates' assertion that the USAF is stuck in the past regarding drone aircraft harks back to the original raison d'etre of the Air Force - it has people in it who fly planes, Dumbass. Who's going to join an air force that doesn't have all that nifty piloting stuff that you see when the Thunderbirds precision team comes to town? I can see the recruiting posters now - "Join the Air Force, It's Just Like a Video Game." Ever since 1947, the Air Force has jealously guarded the fact that it controls land-based fixed-wing aircraft; the Army got the helicopters and (later) the drones. Otherwise it'd still be the Army Air Force.
Give it some time, Gates; the USAF will eventually swallow their pride and admit that swarms of small, inexpensive planes make better economic sense than giant Stealth bombers that burn like torches on Guamanian runways. Of course, we'll all likely be dead by then.
On a related note, it seems that the Army and the Marines have recruited more felons last year, even going so far as to pick up people who have sexual crime convictions and the like.
I'm going to go off on a historical rant here, folks, please bear with me.
Rapine has always been the traditional payment of armies, and we've seen an upsurge in sexual assaults ever since the Iraq War started. It's only going to get worse before we pull out of that country, lick our wounds and try to figure out our mistakes. Okay, enough of that; I am not even going to attempt to rationlaize or defend such behavior. All I will say is be prepared for more of the same.
Now, let us hark back (I know, tired analogy time) to Imperial Rome. As the proletariat in Italy decided it was better to go to the city and live off state-supplied food and games, they lost interest in serving in the military. The gaps in the ranks of the legions were filled by provincial levies, criminals and foreign mercenaries. Entire Germanic tribes were recruited into the Roman Army.
Which eventually came back to haunt the central government in Rome when they found that the Army and its generals no longer took orders, but started giving them. Then the generals got surprised when the legions stopped taking orders and instead gave their loyalties to whoever could pay them the most.
So where does that leave our military?
We have an upsurge in criminals being allowed into our military (some are gang members who, sources report, are being told to join up so they can learn military tactics and bring them back to their gangs).
We are seeing immigrants in the ranks (join the military, become a citizen if you don't get blown away first).
We may start seeing mercenaries (those enlistment incentives and bonuses look pretty good on paper).
All of which adds up to a historical analogy I do not wish to see.