He also reportedly asked Pentagon to squeeze almost all growth from its spending over the next five years, which will eventually require shrinking the Army and Marine Corps and seeking controversial increases in the fees paid by retired, working-age veterans under 65 for Defense Department health insurance.
According to The New York Times, the reduction of up to 47,000 troops from the Army and Marine Corps forces, roughly 6 percent shrinkage, would be the first since the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, reversing the trend ever since. Cutting up to 47,000 troops from the Army and Marine Corps forces would be made easier by the withdrawal under way from Iraq, and the reductions would not begin until 2015, the paper said.
Gates further said that the cuts in Pentagon spending were hardly a peace dividend, and were forced by a global economic recession and domestic pressures to find ways to throttle back federal spending.
"This department simply cannot risk continuing down the same path where our investment priorities, bureaucratic habits and lax attitudes toward costs are increasingly divorced from the real threats of today, the growing perils of tomorrow and the nation's grim financial outlook," he added.
Under the budget plan, the defense budget would continue to rise over the next two years but stop growing after that. The president's budget request for 2012 will be 553 billion dollars, 13 billion dollars less than President Obama had projected.
"This plan represents, in my view, the minimum level of defense spending that is necessary, given the complex and unpredictable array of security challenges the United States faces around the globe: global terrorist networks, rising military powers, nuclear-armed rogue states and much, much more," Gates added.
However, as of now, the Army is expected in 2015 to begin cutting its active-duty troop levels by 27,000, and the Marine Corps by up to 20,000. Together, those force reductions would save six billion dollars in 2015 and 2016.