State of Play
Executive: The Administration is set to announce in May that the cost of sustaining the Afghan police and security forces will likely be $4 billion per year following the expected redeployment of most U.S. forces in 2014. The White House is also in final negotiations with the Afghan government on a security pact that would allow U.S. forces to continue counterterrorism operations in the country past 2014.
The Air Force will forgo development of a new tactical drone, the MQ-X, which was set to replace the MQ-1 and MQ-9 Reapers. And Inside Defense reports that the Air Force will launch a new pre-planned improvement package for the F-22 Raptor that will serve as a stand-alone major acquisition program beginning in 2018.
Legislative: Secretary Panetta and Gen. Dempsey appeared before the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday to discuss the administration’s FY13 budget request and received significant pushback against two proposed rounds of BRAC closures as well as reports that the White House is considering significant reductions in deployed nuclear weapons. HASC Chairman Buck McKeon (R-CA) chastised the administration for culling savings from ending the war in Afghanistan. HASC members also expressed concern about proposed reductions in ground troop strength, delays in F-35 procurement, and a decrease in the Navy’s fleet size. Responding to the reports of potential nuclear weapons reductions, Gen. Dempsey said the administration was simply developing its “next negotiating strategy” with Russia.
Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA) announced this week that the House Armed Services Committee would be launching a “speak-out” tour to drum up opposition to planned defense reductions. And HASC Republicans continue to press service chiefs to identify national security risks associated with further reductions in military spending. Responding to such a question, Army Chief of Staff Ray Odierno said additional cuts would force the service to “relook fundamentally at how we do business,” which, given the Pentagon’s track record on financial management, may not be such a bad thing. Meanwhile, Reps. Walter Jones (R-NC) and Keith Ellison (D-MN) are circulating a Congressional sign-on letter urging the administration avoid conflict with Iran.
AOL Defense: Start Cutting U.S. Nuclear Weapons Down To 1,000
The head of the Arms Control Association, Daryl Kimball, makes the case for why the United States can make substantial reductions in its nuclear weapons arsenal while still retaining “sufficient firepower to deter nuclear attack by any current or potential adversary.” (2/17/12)
The United States and other international buyers’ decisions to delay or reduce procurement of the F-35 will drive up per-unit prices even though the American’s overall procurement buy has not been reduced. (2/16/12)
ThinkProgress: Obama Plan To Reduce Nukes Is Good For Budget, Boosts Moral Authority On Global Nonproliferation
Due to escalating costs and the increased risks of nuclear proliferation, CAP’s Larry Korb and Alex Rothman encourage the administration to consider significant reductions in the number of deployed nuclear weapons. Unsurprisingly, the Lexington Institute’s Daniel Goure disagrees. (2/15/12)
Other News and Commentary
Battleland: Nuclear New Math
Amid the hyperventilation and growing hysteria over reports that the White House is considering further reductions to its nuclear arsenal, Stephen Schwartz from the Monterey Institute of International Studies has revealed a recently declassified chart showing that the steepest nuclear reductions have occurred under Republican administrations. (2/17/12)
National Defense: Procurement Delays Add Up to Big Savings
Sandra Erwin reports on the Pentagon’s strategy to find $75 billion in savings over the next five years by delaying or terminating expensive weapons systems. Erwin points out that “Although stretching out development or trimming production orders saves money in the near term, they tend to drive up the per-unit cost of weapons over time. When programs are delayed, the Pentagon must continue to fund a program’s overhead costs, which ultimately inflates the overall price tag of a program.” (2/17/12)
The Navy is awaiting the results of a study, commissioned by CNO Admiral Jonathan Greenert, which will help shape the service’s shipbuilding strategy over the coming years. Despite the study’s conclusions, Greenert indicated the fleet would not rise above 300 vessels. (2/17/12)
National Defense: Analyst Projects 30 Percent Drop in Defense Spending
Speaking at a conference organized by Aviation Week, industry consultant and former Pentagon official Steve Grudman predicted that the defense budget will come down thirty percent from its high-water mark in 2010. (2/16/12)
Global Security Newswire: U.S. Can Safely Take Deeper Nuclear Arms Cuts: Senior Defense Official
The acting under secretary for policy, James Miller, told a symposium in Virginia this week that the United States could continue to safely reduce its nuclear stockpiles without risking national security. The Pentagon is awaiting the results of a Nuclear Posture Review Implementation Study, which may recommend “possible limits for future reductions below New START levels.” (2/16/12)
With the overwhelming naval and technological superiority that will be provided by the new Ford-class supercarriers, Walter Pincus wonders why the United States is so intent on having a 300-vessel fleet. (2/17/12)
In the recently released budget, the Air Force announced it would spend $550 million per unit for the new long-range strike bomber, expected to enter service around 2020. The service is committed to avoiding the same mistakes that caused the last stealth bomber, the B-2 Spirit, to cost more than $2 billion per plane for 21 aircraft. For more on the Air Force’s plans for the new stealth bomber, click here for a blog post from National Defense. (2/15/12)
Stimson Center: A New Incentive
As a result of the failure of the Super Committee, the Budget Control Act’s distinction between security and non-security spending has now changed to a distinction between defense and non-defense discretionary spending. However in his budget request, President Obama asked Congress to change current law to revive the security/non-security division. If Congress follows the President’s proposal, international affairs spending may be cut in order to shore up funding for the Pentagon. (2/13/12)
National Defense: Air Force Trades Quantity for Quality
The Air Force is reducing personnel and eliminating unneeded aircraft in order to preserve funding for three big-ticket modernization programs: the F-35, the next generation bomber, and the KC-46 refueling tanker. However, the service may still struggle to find adequate funding for all three programs as they increasingly compete for procurement and R&D dollars. (March, 2012)
National Defense: Military Innovation in the Age of Austerity: Why I Love Budget Cuts
Dan Ward argues that budget constraints may actually increase innovation and effectiveness in weapons procurement programs while reducing the tendency for requirements creep. (March, 2012)
National Priorities Project: Analysis Of The Fiscal Year 2013 Pentagon Spending Request (2/17/12)