Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates and retired Adm. Michael Mullen – who served as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – teamed up for a joint smackdown of sequestration Sept. 17.
The pair, who earned bipartisan street-cred for their service to both the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations, warned while still in office that the nation needs to fix its financial situation. But they said that also means ending sequestration, the nearly $1 trillion penalty for failing to reach congressional deficit reduction goals.
Mullen said his purpose was not to point fingers but rather to spur action. “My urgent appeal is to get to the higher ground, and to do so sooner rather than later, together,” Mullen said. “There will come a time when we try to ‘kick the can’ again, but we find that the can will not budge.”
Gates lampooned sequestration, saying it reminds him of the scene in the 1970s farce “Blazing Saddles” where the sheriff holds a gun to his head and tells the crowd not to make him shoot.
During their tenure in the Pentagon, Gates and Mullen tried to avoid what the Pentagon called “salami slicing” the budget, the kind of across-the-board cuts put in place by sequestration. “I referred to it as managerial cowardice,” Gates said. “Sequestration does that on steroids.”