Friday, March 9, 2012

3/7/12 RD Bulletin: Sen. McCain Calls for Airstrikes on Syria

State of Play

Executive: A day before meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Obama told the annual AIPAC conference that he would support using military action to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.  However, the President urged AIPAC attendees to give sanctions additional time to work.  Prime Minister Netanyahu, for his part, reassured Obama in a private meeting the following day that no decision had been made by Israel yet over whether to attack Iran. 

The Navy has begun preliminary development of an aircraft platform that will eventually replace the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.  This follows the administration’s most recent budget request that foresees ending procurement of the Super Hornet in three years.  Army leaders are considering assuming control of the fleet of C-27J cargo planes that the Air Force plans on mothballing.  And the Air Force may have to consider a similar transfer for the Global Hawk Block 30 if Congressional pushback to cancellation of the drone program continues. 

U.S.-Afghan negotiations over an agreement that would allow U.S. military forces to continue operating in the country past 2014 appear to be faltering over President Hamid Karzai’s insistence that American military detention centers be transferred immediately to Afghan control.  Interestingly, the Associated Press reports that senior Pentagon officials are considering transferring control of special operations forces to the CIA after 2014, which would negate the need for a post-2014 agreement because military forces under CIA control would be considered spies.  The proposal, which has not be submitted formally to the White House or Pentagon, would see less than 20,000 special operations forces remaining in the country after 2014. 

Legislative: Speaking on the Senate Floor, SASC Ranking Member John McCain (R-AZ) called for U.S. airstrikes on Syrian military targets in order to establish civilian safe zones.  This follows news reports that suggest Iran is increasingly providing assistance to Syria’s beleaguered regime, while Defense Tech suggests that Western special operations forces may already be operating in Syria

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told AIPAC attendees that if the intelligence community indicates to Congress that Iran has begun enriching weapons grade level uranium or if the country overtly decides to pursue a nuclear weapon, the minority leader would begin pursuing an authorization for use of military force. 


National Interest: How to Pay for Wars
Benjamin Friedman and Charles Knight discuss the President’s recently proposed OCO cap, and while condoning the idea of a war funding cap or surtax, Friedman and Knight argue that the administration’s proposal would impose “no effective fiscal restraint.”  (3/6/12)

By shifting $4 billion in personnel costs from its base budget into the war funding account, the Department of Defense is “dodging” discretionary spending reductions implemented by the Budget Control Act, which Carl Conetta says “contravenes the spirit of deficit reduction. It adds to the nation’s burden while its purveyors are crowing about how much they’ve cut. What they’ve done is change the rules in a way that subtracts from deficit reduction.”  (3/3/12)

Nathan Hodge discusses how a tank manufacturing plant in New York is responding to declining defense expenditures and the prospects for additional automatic cuts, while Charles Knight predicts that lawmakers will likely prevent sequestration next year due to concerns about the nation’s economic recovery and the potential impact of sharp cuts to discretionary spending.  (3/2/12)

Other News and Commentary

At a hearing on the Air Force budget, Congressional defense appropriators pushed back against the service’s decision to cancel the Global Hawk Block 30 drone.  Ranking Member Norm Dicks (D-WA) suggested he might support legislation to save the unmanned surveillance aircraft.  (3/6/12)

Noting the current one-to-one ratio of military contractors to soldiers, Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey believes that reducing defense contracting costs is essential as the Pentagon copes with tighter budget constraints.  (3/6/12)

David Axe covers the story, first reported by Inside Defense, that Pentagon weapons testers may have shifted testing parameters for two variants of the F-35 in order to ensure that the troubled warplane meets previously established performance criteria.  (3/5/12)

Dr. Daniel Goure warns the Army not to repeat the same mistakes committed during development of the Future Combat Systems (FCS).  Goure writes, “Unfortunately, the Army appears to be on the verge of making the same error it did with FCS: betting all its chips on future capabilities that may or may not ever be realized while simultaneously making potentially serious mistakes with respect to current needs.”  (3/5/12)

China recently announced that it will increase its defense budget to $106 billion, roughly an eleven percent increase.  According to Danger Room’s Spencer Ackerman, this means that China’s defense budget will have doubled in just six years.  (3/4/12)

With the prospects for nullifying sequestration appearing dim, Robert Samuelson encourages lawmakers to amend current law to modify the sequester so that it raises taxes and cuts entitlements instead of further slashing discretionary spending.  Samuelson argues that this modification would force Congress to compromise.  (3/4/12)

The Department of Defense has proposed creating a new Defense Health Agency that would combine administration and management of various military health care programs.  The proposal is estimated to save $50-100 million.  (3/2/12)


Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments: The Road Ahead: Future Challenges and their Implications for Ground Vehicle Modernization  (3/6/12)

Congressional Research Service: Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy Responses  (3/2/12)