Center for Arms Control and Non-proliferation – 2009-04-09 23:09:21
Gates Throws Down the Gauntlet on Defense Budget
WASHINGTON (April 7, 2009) — On April 6, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates proposed a number of significant changes to the fiscal year (FY) 2010 defense budget.
The good news is that Gates wants to modify or terminate a number of high-priced weapons programs that are over cost, behind schedule, useless in Iraq and Afghanistan, and unneeded for the foreseeable future. This will allow the Obama administration to provide more resources for military personnel and for weapons programs that are relevant to current threats and the most likely future threats.
The bad news is that while Gates seeks to rearrange certain elements of defense spending, the FY 2010 Pentagon budget, at $534 billion, still perpetuates the decade-long uptick in U.S. defense spending, which today is at the highest inflation-adjusted level since World War II. Indeed, Gates’s April 6 speech featured many more recommendations for spending increases than for spending decreases.
Powerful interests in Congress, the military services, and the defense industry will try to overturn many of Gates’s proposed changes. They may well succeed in some cases.
To distill some concise themes from Gates’s proposals:
• People over machines: More funding for military personnel, military health care, military families, and contractor oversight
• Meet challenges in Iraq and Afghanistan instead of hedging against future threats: As Gates said, “Every defense dollar spent to over-insure against a remote or diminishing risk – or, in effect, to ‘run up the score’ in a capability where the United States is already dominant – is a dollar not available to take care of our people, reset the force, win the wars we are in, and improve capabilities in areas where we are underinvested and potentially vulnerable”
• More money for F-35 Joint Strike Fighters and F/A-18s, end the F-22 Raptor program as planned after FY 2009
• Missile Defense Agency’s annual budget reduced by 16 percent; greater focus on theater missile defense
• Restructure Future Combat Systems (FCS) and cancel ground vehicles component
Proposed Increases With Impact on FY10 Budget
(excludes most personnel changes)
• Increase size of Army and Marine Corps $11 billion “reduce stress on servicemembers and their families, while ensuring heightened readiness for a full spectrum of military operations”
• Support Medical R&D $400 million “steady growth in medical research and development”
• Support Health Programs $300 million “institutionalizing and properly funding…wounded, ill and injured, traumatic brain injury, and psychological health programs” in the base budget
• Family support $200 million “improvements in child care, spousal support, lodging, and education”
• Support Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance (ISR) $2 billion Focus on Iraq-Afghanistan
* Support Additional helicopters $500 million Needed in Afghanistan, focus will be on training Army crews
* Support Global partnership capacity $500 million “training and equipping foreign militaries to undertake counter terrorism and stability operations”
* Support Additional Littoral Combat Ship (3 ships in FY10, up from 2) $500 million “key capability for presence, stability, and counterinsurgency operations in coastal regions” Support; Congress added funding in FY09
• Accelerate Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) $4.4 billion “sustain U.S. air superiority.” However, Gates’s proposal to buy 30 planes in FY10, up from 14 in FY09, was already scheduled and is not a change from prior planning. It appears that Gates’s proposed funding increase will go to R&D shortfalls Uncertain; Congress could seek JSF reduction to pay for more F-22s
• Increase F/A-18 procurement $648 million to procure 31 aircraft in FY10, as compared to 23 in FY09 Likely support; in December, 22 representatives and 10 senators signed a letter to Gates; some Missouri lawmakers may push for even more F/A-18s than Gates proposed because Gates recommended buying no more C-17s, which are produced in Missouri
• Theater missile defense (THAAD, SM-3, Aegis BMD) $900 million “to better protect our forces and those of our allies in theater from ballistic missile attack”
• Support; congressional Democrats have increased funding for these programs repeatedly
Total proposed increases (excludes most personnel changes) $21.3 billion
Proposed Cancellations or Reductions With Impact on FY10 Budget
(excludes personnel changes)
• End production of F-22 Raptors $4 billion
“the military advice…was that there is no military requirement for numbers of F-22s beyond the 187” already planned Anger; in January, 194 representatives and 44 senators signed letters encouraging President Obama to continue building Raptors; F-22s are built in Georgia, Texas, Washington, and Connecticut, so lawmakers from those states will lead the charge against Gates’s proposal
• Cancel VH-71 helicopter $835 million
“the program is estimated to cost over $13 billion, has fallen six years behind schedule, and runs the risk of not delivering the requested capability.” Some lawmakers from New York will oppose; some lawmakers from Connecticut will endorse and advocate for Connecticut-based Sikorsky in the next iteration
• Cancel CSAR-X helicopter $300 million
“yet another single-service solution with single-purpose aircraft” Some lawmakers in New York, Connecticut may oppose
• Cancel Transformational Satellite (TSAT) $843 million None provided Uncertain
• Cancel 2nd Airborne Laser (ABL) aircraft $400 million “significant affordability and technology problems and the program’s proposed operational role is highly questionable” Some lawmakers from Washington, Kansas, and California will oppose, along with Senators Lieberman, Kyl, Begich, Murkowski, Sessions, Inhofe
• Cancel Multiple Kill Vehicle (MKV) $350 million “significant technical challenges and the need to take a fresh look at the requirement” Some lawmakers from Arizona will oppose, along with Senators Lieberman, Begich, Murkowski, Sessions, Inhofe
Other missile defense reductions besides ABL and MKV $650 million to yield these savings, DOD will restructure and “not increase the number of current ground-based interceptors in Alaska as had been planned” Some lawmakers from Arizona will oppose, along with Senators Lieberman, Begich, Murkowski, Sessions, Inhofe
• End production of DDG-1000 at 3 ships $1.5 billion (more w/ rescissions) None provided Support; an agreement was quickly reached between General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman to build all 3 DDG-1000s at Bath Iron Works in Maine while restarting production of DDG-51s in Pascagoula, Mississippi
• Cancel Future Combat Systems (FCS) ground vehicles $770 million “the FCS vehicles…do not adequately reflect the lessons of counterinsurgency and close quarters combat in Iraq and Afghanistan” Lawmakers from Oklahoma (read: Inhofe) will oppose; New Englanders may too
Total proposed reductions (excludes most personnel changes) $9.6 billion
Table notes: Budget estimates based on Gates’s remarks and previous year funding.
Why is the Obama Administration Cutting Weapons Systems?
To bring strategy and spending into better alignment: The Obama administration seeks a better balance between meeting current operational challenges in Iraq and Afghanistan and preparing for future threats.
As Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said last week, the Obama administration seeks “to reshape and rebalance the budget so that we are not so heavily weighted to preparing to fight conventional conflicts against near peer countries that may or may not take place, and instead spend more of the money to fight and win irregular conflicts like we are in now.”
To pay for military personnel: The Obama administration’s budget provides a 2.9 percent pay raise for troops and accelerates planned increases in the size of the Army and Marine Corps.
These personnel costs will consume more than the $9 billion inflation-adjusted budget growth the administration is seeking. Internal budgetary tradeoffs are therefore necessary, and it is inevitable that the procurement and research and development accounts will be cut because cutting the personnel account is political suicide and cutting the operations and maintenance account is impossible when there are two wars going on.
To save money: The Obama administration believes that up to $40 billion can be saved by eliminating wasteful programs in the Pentagon’s procurement budget. “I recognize the real choice between investments that are designed to keep the American people safe and those that are designed to make a defense contractor rich,” President Obama said in March.
Highlights of Several Proposed Cuts and Action in Congress
During action on their respective versions of the fiscal year (FY) 2010 Budget Resolution last week, both the House and Senate approved the Obama administration’s FY 2010 “National Defense” budget of $556 billion (along with an additional $130 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan). Thus, Congress’ opportunity to adjust the overall defense spending level for FY 2010 has mostly passed.
The remainder of the year will be spent arguing about the composition of the $556 billion budget. If Congress wants to add funding for a specific weapons program from here on out, it will have to reduce funding for other programs in order to stay under the $556 billion budget ceiling. Failing to do so will trigger a budgetary point of order in Congress.
Below are four programs that will be modified under Gates’s recommendations.
Future Combat Systems (FCS)
What is it? – The Army’s principal modernization program, FCS consists of a suite of 14 manned and unmanned ground vehicles and sensors interlinked through a sophisticated communications network.
How much? – Current Army estimates put the total program cost at $160 billion, a 73 percent increase since 2003. A report by Office of the Secretary of Defense, however, put the eventual cost at between $203 billion to $234 billion. Congress appropriated $3.4 billion for FCS in FY 2009.
What is the problem? – Many have questioned the battlefield utility of FCS in stabilization, reconstruction, and counterinsurgency operations such as Iraq and Afghanistan. The Congressional Budget Office also has raised questions about whether FCS takes too long to deploy overseas.
Who are the congressional supporters? – Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), second ranking Republican on the Armed Services Committee, is the biggest supporter of FCS. The Army’s artillery center, Ft. Sill, is in his state and the Non-Line-of-Sight Cannon, a major FCS system, is being built in Elgin, Oklahoma by BAE Systems.
Airborne Laser (ABL) Missile Defense
What is it? – A Boeing 747 aircraft equipped with a laser that is designed to shoot down ballistic missiles during their boost phase.
How much? – Due to uncertainties about the program, total program costs are not available. However, approximately $5 billion has been spent on ABL to date. Congress appropriated approximately $400 million for ABL in FY 2009.
What is the problem? – Experts regard numerous technical shortcomings in ABL as ultimately insurmountable. Analysts also have pointed out that the proposed fleet of seven ABL aircraft would pose enormous basing and logistical challenges that might result, even in ideal circumstances, in ABL only being able to provide 24-hour protection in one theater at a time. This is regarded as insufficient when the United States could face multiple simultaneous missile threats.
Who are the congressional supporters? – Due to the presence of Boeing workers in their states, members of Congress from Kansas and Washington are strong ABL supporters. As ABL is being tested at Edwards Air Force Base in California, several lawmakers from the Golden State also vigorously support the program. On March 23, seven House members sent a letter to Secretary Gates asking him to continue to fund ABL.
Signatories included Norm Dicks (D-WA), Todd Tiahrt (R-KS), Trent Franks (R-AZ), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Todd Akin (R-KS), Buck McKeon (R-CA), and Kevin McCarthy (R-CA).
What is it? – A new stealth surface combatant designed to provide naval fire-support and land-attack capabilities.
How much? – Current Navy estimates put the current cost at over $4 billion per ship, but independent analysts say the final cost could surpass $6 billion. Congress appropriated $1.5 billion, one-half the cost of the third ship in the series, in FY 2009 and directed the Navy to finance the remaining cost in FY 2010.
What is the problem? – To support its attempt to kill the DDG-1000 in 2008, the Navy said the DDG-1000 is not well suited to deal with new missile threats or to perform other missions now seen as top priorities, including area-defense anti-aircraft warfare, ballistic missile defense, and blue water anti-submarine warfare. The Navy sought to truncate the DDG-1000 and instead to produce more DDG-51 destroyers, but Congress disagreed and helped persuade the Navy to request more money for the third ship.
Who are the congressional supporters? – The DDG-1000 is being built at General Dynamics’ Bath Iron Works in Maine and Northrop Grumman’s Ingalls shipyard in Pascagoula, Mississippi. Lawmakers from New England have been particularly vocal advocates of the DDG-1000. On March 20, a group of New England lawmakers wrote Secretary Gates to request full funding for the DDG-1000 in FY 2010.
Signatories included Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Jack Reed (D-RI), John Kerry (D-MA), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), as well as Representatives Nikki Tsongas (D-MA), Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), Michael Capuano (D-MA), James McGovern (D-MA), Michael Michaud (D-ME), Paul Hodes (D-NH), Richard Neal (D-MA), James Langevin (D-RI), and Stephen Lynch (D-MA).
VH-71 Presidential Helicopter
What is it? – The next generation Marine Corps helicopter for the U.S. President.
How much? – Officially estimated to cost over $240 million per copter, the VH-71’s total program cost has doubled since 2005. Congress appropriated $835 million for the program in FY 2009.
What is the problem? – Criticism of the VH-71 is entirely based on cost overruns and schedule delays. Supporters of the program maintain that requirement changes, not contractor mistakes, have driven up costs.
Who are the congressional supporters? – Lockheed Martin in Owego, New York is leading the VH-71 integration program. Accordingly, Representatives Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) and Michael Arcuri (D-NY), whose districts contain the Lockheed plant and many affected workers, joined 11 colleagues in writing a letter of support in March. Connecticut-based Sikorsky, however, has sought another chance at the contract ever since it lost the original competition to Lockheed in 2005. Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) believes Sikorsky should have won originally and has been looking for an opportunity to roll back Lockheed’s win.
Travis Sharp is the Military Policy Analyst at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation. He is a frequent media commentator and has published letters and articles in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Parameters, Peace Review, United Press International, The Hill, IraqSlogger, and Politico. Travis Sharp 202-546-0795 ext. 2105 firstname.lastname@example.org
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