… (T)his budget represents an opportunity; one of those rare chances to match virtue to necessity, to critically and ruthlessly separate appetites from real requirements, those things that are desirable in a perfect world from those things that are truly needed in light of the threats America faces and the missions we are likely to undertake in the years ahead; an opportunity to truly reform the way we do business.
The “thud” you just heard was the other shoe of defense procurement reductions hitting the overhead deck.Â Secretary Gates has just released the plan for re-worked forces to meet new challenges abroad and at home in a fiscally constrained environment (full text of press conference here).
The decisions have three principal objectives:
First, to reaffirm our commitment to take care of the all-volunteer force, which, in my view, represents America’s greatest strategic asset.Â Second, we must re-balance this department’s programs in order to institutionalize and finance our capabilities to fight the wars we are in today and the scenarios we are most likely to face in the years ahead, while at the same time providing a hedge against other risks and contingencies.Â Third, in order to do this, we must reform how and what we buy; meaning a fundamental overhaul of our approach to procurement, acquisition and contracting.
To be sure, there will be controversy in the choices — stop the F-22 procurement at 187 aircraft and instead ramp up F-35 procurement beginning with 30 a/c in FY 10, up from the 14 in FY 09 while retiring 250 of the oldest tactical fighters (read: ANG F-16’s and F-15’s) in the coming year.Â Begin work for a follow-on to the Ohio-class SSBN, not so fast for a new bomber.Â Finish C-17 procurement with the current year.Â Buy more Reaper and Predator drones as part of an overall increase in ISR support to forces. CompletingÂ Army and Marine Corps growth while stopping Air Force and Navy reductions.Â More support for the warfighter – increased medical funding and research, particularly in the areas of TBI and other traumatic injuries, family support and the like. Kill the new Presidential helicopter program (+6B over budget and well behind schedule) and the Air Force’s CSAR-X. Both programs to be recompeted.Â KC-X to be recompeted this summer And Navy?
“we will increase the buy of littoral combat ships — a key capability for presence, stability and counterinsurgency operations in coastal regions — from two to three ships in FY ’10. Our goal is eventually to acquire 55 of these ships.”
“Last year’s national defense strategy concluded that although U.S. predominance in conventional warfare is not unchallenged, it is sustainable for the medium term, given current trends. This year’s budget deliberations focused on what programs are necessary to deter aggression, project power when necessary and protect our interests and allies around the globe. To this end, I will recommend new or additional investments and shifts in several key areas.”
“… to better protect our forces and those of our allies in theater from ballistic missile attack, we will add $700 million to field more of our most capable theater missile defense systems; specifically, the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, THAAD, and the Standard Missile 3 programs.”
“we will add $200 million to fund the conversion of six additional Aegis ships to provide ballistic-missile-defense capabilities ”
“the healthy margin of dominance at sea provided by America’s existing battle fleet makes it possible and prudent to slow production of several major surface combatants and other maritime programs. We will shift the Navy aircraft carrier program to a five-year build cycle, placing it on a more fiscally sustainable path. This will result in 10 carriers after 2040.”
“We will delay the Navy’s CG(X) next-generation cruiser program to revisit both the requirements and acquisition strategy. We will delay amphibious-ship and sea-basing programs, such as the 11th landing platform dock ship and the mobile landing platform ship, to FY ’11 in order to assess costs and analyze the amount of these capabilities the nation needs.”
Much to think about – much to ponder and discuss in the days/weeks/months ahead here and elsewhere.Â Some thoughts – how much of this was influenced by the ongoing debate in Army and Marines over the 2006 Israeli-Hezbollah war?Â In the run-up to the release, there was considerable concern that navy would lose considerably in areas like carrier construction (talk was bandied about of dropping to 9 or 8 CVN’s), shuttering of DDG-1000, etc.Â And what about LCS?Â And missile defense – especially in light of this weekend’s events?Â Fair amount was said about that – and you’ll see more here in the near future.