State of Play
Executive: The deputy Marine Corps commandant for aviation, Lt. Gen. Terry Robling, told Reuters over the weekend that unless cost estimates for the F-35 come down over the next five to ten years, the Pentagon may have to reduce its overall purchase of the aircraft, fly less hours, or give up adding new technological capabilities to fighter jet. Air Force F-35A training jets, which have been sitting idle at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, have been cleared to fly, however additional tests will be required before full training flights begin. And the service has decided to “set-aside” a contract to purchase 20 Super Tucano light attack aircraft from a Brazilian manufacturer after its American competitor filed several protests.
Following a recent spate of violence in Afghanistan and increasing attacks by Afghan security forces on NATO personnel, U.S. military officials have reaffirmed their commitment to the current strategy which has NATO forces training the Afghan military and police force before a security transition takes place in 2014. U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker cautioned that now “is not the time to decide that we are done here.” Some analysts seem to disagree, while Anthony Cordesman at CSIS has proclaimed an end to retired Gen. Stanley McCrystal’s Afghan strategy.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak is in Washington this week meeting with Pentagon officials following an Associated Press report that Israel would not warn the United States in advance of a strike on Iranian nuclear facilities. The New York Times also reports that the Pentagon believes Iran would likely strike against U.S. assets in the region if Israel were to launch such an attack. Meanwhile, the Pentagon has announced that it has drafted “detailed plans” for a full range of military options for U.S. intervention in Syria should President Obama decide to take military action there.
Legislative: Speaking at a Senate Budget Committee hearing yesterday, Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) said he sees little chance of reversing the administration’s endorsed $489 billion in defense savings over the next decade, as SASC Ranking Member John McCain (R-AZ) has suggested doing. The retiring budget chairman also indicated that he might support additional reductions in defense spending, pointing out that the Pentagon budget “has grown dramatically and is a contributing factor in the debt.” Conrad added, “We simply will not be able to remain a global superpower if we do not stop the explosion of debt.”
With the Congressional Budget Office indicating that Congress will likely have to increase the statutory debt limit sometime during the lame duck session or soon thereafter, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) this week called for lawmakers to reach a debt-reduction deal now, before the election, citing the prospects for increased partisanship after November 6. Supposedly, Hoyer is working on a major piece of bipartisan deficit reduction legislation that would achieve what several commissions and even a “super” committee failed to enact: significant savings in the federal budget.
While at a Defending Defense event on February 16, Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl expressed concern over what he characterized as the slow pace of nuclear modernization efforts by the Obama Administration. Specifically, Kyl hit the White House over recently announced delays in the next-generation bomber as well as the Ohio-class replacement submarine even though the two programs are slated to receive billions of dollars in developmental funding over the next five years.
Cato @ Liberty: The Pentagon Budget: Myth vs. Reality
Christopher Preble debunks a number of pernicious myths surrounding the Pentagon budget and projected spending levels, dispelling the notion that the defense budget has been “gutted or cut to the bone.” (2/29/12)
Battleland: Revisiting the Reaper Revolution
In the first installment of a five-part series on the MQ-9 Reaper unmanned drone, Winslow Wheeler examines whether the UAV has caused a “revolution” in warfare and if unmanned vehicles should eventually replace traditional manned aircraft. Click here for the second and third installments in the series. (2/27/12)
Speaking to a Reuters reporter, the deputy Marine Corps commandant for aviation, Lt. Gen. Terry Robling acknowledged that over its 50-year life-cycle, the F-35 fleet will cost approximately $1 trillion to operate. The Pentagon has estimated that the F-35 program will cost $382 billion to develop and fully procure, however that figure is expected to rise as a result of a recent delay in the overall purchase. Robling told Reuters that unless cost estimates come down, the Pentagon may be forced to reduce purchases of the F-35, cut flying hours, or scale back on capabilities; however he noted that a decision on procurement reductions would still be five to ten years away. (2/26/12)
Other News and Commentary
In an op-ed urging Congress to nullify sequestration, AEI’s Mackenzie Eaglen claims that the Obama Administration has already cut $1 trillion from the defense budget over the past three years. (2/28/12)
Army Times: Banning Tricare incentives saved little money
A 2007 law that prohibits private companies from offering incentives to military retirees to continue to use Tricare instead of switching to an employer-provided plan has saved less money than CBO originally projected. (2/27/12)
Stars and Stripes: Fewer Funds for Afghan War Means More War
Max Boot argues in an op-ed in Stars and Stripes that reducing funding for the Afghan conflict could extend the duration of the war if declining funds for Afghan security forces lead to increased civil strife. (2/27/12)
In order to preserve funding for the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, the Army recently decided to cancel the Humvee recapitalization program and pour the remains funds into a Humvee “vehicle sustainment” initiative. (2/27/12)
National Interest: It’s Time to Cut Our Losses in Afghanistan
Because of the increased level of violence and diminished hopes for stability, the Cato Institute’s Malou Innocent argues that it’s time for the United States to cut its losses and leave Afghanistan. (2/27/12)
AOL Defense: New Bomber Program 'Underway' But Cloaked in Secrecy
Despite keeping details of the next-generation bomber under close wraps, Air Force Secretary Michael Donley has acknowledged that the program is “underway,” will produce around 80-100 aircraft, and will be ready sometime in the mid-2020s. The administration has requested $4 billion over five years for the new bomber program in its FY13 budget. (2/27/12)
Government Accountability Office: Effort Delayed as DOD Adopts New Approach to Balance Requirements, Costs, and Schedule (2/27/12)
Government Accountability Office: Improvements Needed to Strengthen Management of U.S. Civilian Presence (2/27/12)
Department of Defense: DoD Information Security Program (4 volumes) (2/24/12)
Congressional Research Service: Taiwan: Major U.S. Arms Sales Since 1990 (2/24/12)
Government Accountability Office: Guidance and Progress Measures Are Needed to Realize Benefits from Changes in DOD's Joint Requirements Process (2/24/12)
3/8/12: Reception for the Paperback Release of Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex by William Hartung
At 6:00 pm on March 8, 2012, the Center for International Policy, Project on Government Oversight, and Foreign Policy in Focus will host a reception at the Mott House, 122 Maryland Ave. NE, Washington, D.C., to celebrate the paperback release of Bill Hartung's book Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex. To RSVP, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
3/6/12: Center for National Policy: China’s Coming Slowdown
At 12:00 pm on March 6, 2012, the Center for National Policy will host Scott Bates from the Peterson Institute for International Economics and a panel of experts to discuss the challenges faced by China's economy. Click here to register.