Last week's Senate vote to end production of the F-22 fighter -- reversing an earlier vote to keep building the $361 million jets -- was hailed as a triumph for Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who had won a presidential promise to veto any Defense bill including the airplane. A subsequent Senate vote cut funding to develop a second, alternative engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, another Gates win. Meanwhile, Gates announced an increase of 22,000 soldiers to the Army, which formally implemented his cancellation of its Future Combat Systems armored vehicle program, to be rebooted as a blank-slate new design. It's been a good week for Gates -- but what comes next?
What kind of military is Gates shaping? Is he merely trimming deadwood on the margins, or does he offer a vision of a positive alternative to business-as-usual? How substantial, as opposed to symbolic, is his progress so far? And how far, realistically, can he get before the next presidential election in 2012?