Gates sees smaller military, benefit cuts

WASHINGTON — The outgoing defense secretary, Robert Gates, said Tuesday that the U.S. military would become smaller and service members' pay and benefits could be reduced as the Pentagon struggles to meet President Obama's stringent cost-cutting targets.

In what he called his last major policy speech in Washington before he steps down June 30, Gates said that in order to meet Obama's goal of $400 billion in military spending cuts over 12 years, Americans would face tough choices over whether to eliminate some weapons programs, shrink the size of fighting units or overhaul health care and retirement packages for service members.

While declining to offer specific proposals, Gates said the Pentagon's efforts to trim costs around the margins so far had been disappointing.

Americans should be under no illusions that serious cuts wouldn't fundamentally change the U.S. military, Gates said.

"A smaller military, no matter how superb, will be able to go fewer places and do fewer things," Gates said at the American Enterprise Institute.