Obama’s Former Defense Secretaries Dismantle Obama’s Defense Policy

• November 20, 2014 3:32 pm


President Obama's former Secretaries of Defense have a low opinion of the boss' defense policy.

Robert Gates, who served in that position under Obama from 2009 to 2011, and his replacement Leon Panetta (2011 to 2013), sharply criticized Obama on everything from administrative methods to being too insular to fighting the Islamic State terrorist organization in speeches at the Reagan National Defense Forum November 15.

Gates said "micromanagement" under Obama was reminiscent of his time serving under another president–Lyndon B. Johnson, who "drove [him] crazy."

"When a president wants highly centralized command in the White House at the degree of micromanagement that I'm describing, that's not bureaucratic," Gates said. "That's political."

Panetta, who has leveled criticism against the White House for being too isolated, said there was too much "centralization of authority" and thus "there are too few voices that are being heard in terms of the ability to make decisions."

Panetta also hit Obama, who laid out frankly in September how he intended to "degrade and ultimately destroy" the Islamic State, for sharing too much with the enemy.

"You never tell your enemy what the hell you're going to do!" he said to applause.

Gates also said a president can not make a threat or "draw a red line" and not carry out said threat, referring to Obama's empty words about Syria's usage of chemical weapons in 2013.

"When the President of the United States makes a threat, the credibility of this entire country is on the line," Gates said.

Both men were particularly critical of defense budget cuts and sequestration, and they struck similar questioning tones about his willingness to use everything at his disposal to put troops in a position to succeed against the Islamic State. Obama has said he is unlikely to deploy U.S. Special Forces to the front lines to help in the effort, a decision Gates strongly disagreed with.

"[President Obama] has given them the mission of destroying ISIS," Gates said. "But when you then deny the military the authorities they require to achieve the objective, you leave them with a great sense of frustration."

"I think it is important for the president and I think it's important for our military leaders to know that they have to be able to use every possible option on the table in order to be able to succeed in that effort, and that we ought not to just ad hoc limit certain areas," Panetta said.

"I think there is a gap between the president's rhetoric in terms of the objectives and the missions that he sets for the military and then the authorization that he gives them to carry it out," Gates added.