Monday, March 5, 2012

3/2/12 RD Bulletin: Navy Fleet to Peak at 285 Over Next 5 Years

State of Play

Executive: Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert told defense appropriators this week that the service plans on maxing out its fleet at 285 ships over the next five years – causing alarm amongst lawmakers who want to see the fleet expand as the United States returns its focus to the Asia Pacific region.  Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus said he expects a long-awaited force-structure assessment to be completed by the end of the calendar year even though it was supposed to be completed this spring. 

The Department of Defense Inspector General has announced that it will conduct a quality assurance assessment of the F-35 as concerns continue to mount over the development and price of the controversial fighter jet program.  The Project on Government Oversight’s Nick Schwellenbach notes that this development follows the “latest annual Pentagon test and evaluation report [which] noted high failure rates of some of the parts on the F-35B variant.”  And Japan announced this week that it may consider canceling its procurement of F-35 if costs aren’t brought under control. 

Legislative: In what’s being perceived as an attempt to challenge the White House’s timetable for redeployment from Afghanistan, HASC Chairman Buck McKeon (R-CA) has introduced legislation that would bar private security contractors and Afghan security forces from guarding U.S. military installations in the central Asian country.  GAO has released a second annual report on duplication and government waste required by law under the Budget Control Act.  Included in the report are recommendations that the Department of Defense consolidate unmanned aerial drone acquisition programs and create a database for counter-IED efforts in order to avoid duplication. 

Roll Call reports that House Budget Committee GOP members are having a tough time agreeing on future discretionary spending levels – trying to balance Tea Party support for deeper reductions with discretionary spending caps implemented by the Budget Control Act.  Some members are openly speculating that the House may forgo bringing a budget resolution to the Floor this year, after hitting Senate Democrats repeatedly for doing the same thing.  And HASC Ranking Member Adam Smith (D-CA) suggested yesterday that allowing the Bush-era tax breaks to completely expire on schedule at the end of the year would prevent sequestration cuts by providing much needed revenue for the federal government.  Smith challenged Republicans on the committee by pointing out that if they supported extensions of the Bush tax cuts, they would in effect be dooming the Defense Department to automatic cuts. 

The top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee and Subcommittee on Defense, Norm Dicks (D-WA) announced his retirement today, following the recent retirement of former Chair Dave Obey (D-WI) and the announced retirement of former Chairman Jerry Lewis (R-CA).  Dicks’ announcement would leave Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) next in line to take over as Ranking Democrat on the panel; however she is currently locked in a contentious primary with Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH).  Rep. Pete Visclosky (D-IN) is the next Democrat in line after Dicks on the defense subcommittee. 


A new infographic from CAP compares the trade-offs in funding for military activities versus programs that assist returning veterans.  For example, with the money it costs to purchase one Trident II nuclear missile, the government could fund almost $25 million in veterans training and employment services.  (3/2/12)

In the fourth installment of a five-part series on the MQ-9 Reaper drone, Winslow Wheeler examines the UAV’s “stunning” crash rate and operational availability.  For the final piece in the series, click here(3/1/12)

Other News and Commentary

Despite the fact that the Global Hawk Block 30 drone is manufactured in his congressional district, HASC Chairman Buck McKeon (R-CA) told AOL Defense this week that he wouldn’t fight the administration’s decision to cancel the program.  (3/1/12)

Defense appropriators are pushing back against Navy plans to plateau the fleet at 285 vessels over the next five years, challenging the administration’s stance that it can pivot to Asia without dramatically expanding its fleet.  (3/1/12)

Max Rosenthal discusses a recent report by the Institute for Economics and Peace that examines the short- and long-term impact of American wars on domestic economic indicators.  (3/1/12)

HASC Ranking Member Adam Smith (D-CA) says that Congress and the Pentagon should not spend constrained resources on maintaining the defense industrial base as the overall federal budget declines.  Furthermore, Smith said he would not support increasing defense spending unless it is offset by other savings.  (3/1/12)

Gen. Schwartz told reporters this week that the Air Force must shrink its personnel and reduce excess infrastructure in order to meet budget constraints imposed by the Budget Control Act.  The service has already proposed cutting 9,900 personnel from its ranks this year.  (3/1/12)

Walter Pincus offers highlights from recent Congressional hearings on the defense budget, including the statement by Secretary Panetta that unless Capitol Hill takes action by this summer to ward of sequestration, the Office of Management and Budget will direct federal agencies to begin planning for the automatic cuts.  (3/1/12)

Following territorial disputes between China and U.S. allies in the Asia Pacific region, the White House is calling on the Senate to ratify the controversial Law of the Sea.  SASC member James Inhofe (R-OK) plans on convening hearings on the issue of Senate ratification.  (2/29/12)

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz says that if the per-unit cost of the long-range strike bomber exceeds $550 million per aircraft, the service may have to cancel the program.  (2/29/12)


Congressional Research Service: North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons: Technical Issues  (2/29/12)

Congressional Research Service: Afghanistan Casualties: Military Forces and Civilians (2/29/12)

Department of Defense Deputy Inspector General for Intelligence and Special Program Assessments: Report on Sensitive Compartmented Information Leaks in the Department of Defense  (2/2/7/12)