Thursday, April 5, 2012

4/5/12 RD Bulletin: Rising Cost Estimates Continue to Plague F-35 Program

State of Play

Executive: The Pentagon has submitted to Congress its selected acquisition report which shows that the total projected cost of the F-35 procurement program has increased by $17 billion.  This report, combined with recent data published by the Government Accountability Office, now puts the total cost of developing, procuring, and maintaining the F-35 fleet at close to $1.5 trillion over fifty years – a fifteen percent increase from last year’s forecast.  The decision by the Obama Administration to delay a portion of the F-35 buy will add an additional $6 billion to the program’s total cost.  Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) recently called the next generation aircraft program “the biggest example of corporate welfare in history.” 

During his nomination hearing, acting acquisition chief Frank Kendall said that sequestration cuts would force the Pentagon to renegotiate contracts for the KC-46 tanker and the Littoral Combat Ship and could put at risk “hundreds of thousands of jobs,” down from earlier Pentagon estimates of 1.5 million jobs.   Kendall also mentioned that nearly half of all DOD weapons systems experience cost overruns of at least fifteen percent, which triggers the Nunn-McCurdy amendment.  Kendall testified that the Navy’s shipbuilding account will not be able bear the price of the SSBN(X) alone and that the Pentagon will have to find “some other way” to fund the Ohio-class replacement submarine.  The Navy’s long-term shipbuilding plan, submitted to Congress last week, said that the service can afford the submarine program over the next five years, but will have problems financing it after that.

Inside Defense reports that the “Pentagon's weapon system acquisition portfolio shrank by $102.5 billion over the last year to $1.6 trillion, a 5.6 percent reduction,” because 14 major weapons systems have either been cancelled or are nearing the end of their procurement cycle.  The Air Force has concluded an investigation of oxygen-supply systems on the F-22 Raptor after 14 system failures were experienced between 2008 and 2011 – ultimately leading to the grounding of the entire F-22 fleet.  The service was unable to determine the root cause of failure in ten of the 14 incidents, but was able to put “proper safety measures and risk mitigation techniques” in place to allow the fleet to return to operation.  Meanwhile, Lockheed Martin has been award a $664 million contract to maintain the F-22 fleet for one year even though the aircraft has yet to fly its first combat mission. 

Legislative: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says he expects to begin bringing annual appropriations bills to the Senate Floor by the end of this month or beginning of next.  The Congressional appropriations process will be difficult this year given that the House and Senate have each set different limits on total discretionary spending.  The Senate’ has hewed closely to discretionary spending caps set in law by the Budget Control Act, while the House last week passed a budget resolution that set total discretionary spending at $1.028 trillion, roughly $19 billion below the Senate.  The House resolution also included instructions to committees to find $261 billion in savings, which will be packaged into legislation and brought to the House Floor by the end of May. 

Rep. J. Randy Forbes (R-VA) plans on launching a “Defending Our Defenders” tour in May to warn the American public about the dangers of sequestration cuts to the Pentagon.  Forbes characterized the upcoming campaign as the “largest defense tour our country has had.” The Chairman and Ranking Member of HASC have introduced the Fiscal Year 2013 defense authorization bill (H.R. 4310), with a markup of the legislation expected by this summer.  Two other members of the committee, Reps. Bill Shuster (R-PA) and Rick Larsen (D-WA), plan on proposing regulatory reforms that will help break down barriers for companies seeking new contracts with the Pentagon.  The recommendations are likely to be included in the annual defense authorization bill.  And Rep. Allen West, another member of the committee, says he wants to cap the number of troops reductions the Pentagon can enact in a single year at 15,000 for the Army and 5,000 for the Marine Corps.  West says he’s worried that the White House will increase the rate of force reductions in order to achieve additional savings. 

Polling: Third Way, a centrist think tank, has released a report based on a series of national security focus groups held with swing voters in Ohio and Florida.  In an interview with Politico, the director of the national security program at Third Way, Mieke Eoyang, said that when asked about the size of the Pentagon budget, focus group participants “didn’t really buy into the idea that more is better. It’s more about what are you going to do with it.  And they recognized… that maybe we do need to make some cuts now that we’re drawing down from the wars.” 

American support for the U.S.-led contingency operation in Afghanistan continues to slip, with a new CNN-Opinion Research Corporation poll showing that just twenty-five percent of those questioned support the conflict, down ten percentage points from November, 2011.  The Atlantic magazine recently asked several foreign policy experts whether they thought the Obama Administration could complete the goals laid out in its Afghan strategy.  Click here for the responses. 


Larry Korb argues that typically the United States takes too long to withdrawal from conflict zones, citing Korea and Vietnam as examples, and says that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s insistence that U.S. troops be denied immunity from the Iraqi judicial system was actually a blessing in disguise.  Korb writes that Afghan President Hamid Karzai is smart to impose restrictions on U.S. troops that he knows the American government will reject, and urges U.S. policymakers to allow Karzai to take control of his country.  (4/4/12)

Miriam Pemberton and William Hartung write that maintaining high levels of defense spending while “pushing the burden of budget cuts on domestic programs would result in a net loss of jobs nationwide,” because Pentagon spending creates less jobs per billion spent than other forms of government stimulus, including tax cuts.  (3/29/12)

The ranking members of the House Appropriations, Armed Services, and Intelligence Committees have written an op-ed in which they argue that Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget pushes both political sides further from the compromise they need to avoid automatic defense cuts scheduled to take effect next year.  Furthermore, the three lawmakers say that simply exempting national security spending from sequestration is the “wrong approach.” 

During his nomination hearing, acting Pentagon acquisition chief Frank Kendall said that sequestration cuts would force the Pentagon to renegotiate contracts for the KC-46 tanker and the Littoral Combat Ship.  Kendall also mentioned that nearly half of all DOD weapons systems experience cost overruns of at least fifteen percent.   (3/29/12)

Other News and Commentary

Foreign Policy: Afghanistan Falls Apart
Neal Shea, who has spent much of the past five years embedded with NATO units in Afghanistan, reports on the most recent developments there and how the country’s elites view the conflict and prospects for stability after the United States withdraws.  (4/5/12)

The Will and the Wallet: Raising the Rates
Budget documents from the Pentagon Comptroller show that spending on military health care has increased by 250 percent since Fiscal Year 2001. The President’s FY13 budget request proposes introducing enrollment fees and co-pays for some military retirees, a proposal similar to one recommended by the Stimson Center’s Gordon Adams and Matthew Leatherman last year.  (4/3/12)

Susan Shaer asks Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) why he chooses to disproportionally cut domestic discretionary spending, even though it accounts for less than half of all Congressionally-appropriated dollars.  Shaer implores, “Rep. Ryan, unchecked spending on the Pentagon at the expense of domestic programs that support people struggling in this economy negatively affects your own constituents, and the entire country. Let’s put this nation on reasonable footing when it comes to national security and fiscal responsibility. Let’s have sensible cuts to the Pentagon budget.”  (4/2/12)

The U.K.’s The Guardian newspaper reports that researchers at the Sandia National Laboratories are looking at developing nuclear power systems for unmanned aerial drones that could increase their flying time from days to months – addressing a critical pitfall in drone technology: the huge amount of energy that they consume.  (4/2/12)

Intelligence missteps and exaggeration in the lead-up to the Iraq war are now haunting CIA analysts who are trying to determine whether Iran intends to build a nuclear weapon.  (3/31/12)

The White House has requested more than $800 million less for missile defense than was appropriated last year.  Part of the decline in funding is due to the retirement of six cruisers that were slated for ballistic missile defense conversions.  (3/31/12)

The Pentagon may have to act more aggressively to close overseas bases, especially in Europe, in order to secure Congressional approval for two new BRAC rounds in 2013 and 2015. (3/31/12)

A new report by the National Research Council has found that the United States can continue to maintain safe, stable, and reliable nuclear weapons into the foreseeable future without the need for additional underground test explosions.  This report updates a 2002 study that examined technical concerns with the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty.  (3/31/12)

New cost estimates from the Pentagon’s Cost Assessment Program Evaluation office and the Government Accountability Office put the total estimated cost of developing, procuring, and maintaining the F-35 fleet at close to $1.5 trillion.  Although the administration delayed procurement of 179 F-35s over the next five years, the total planned procurement has not been reduced.  However, last week, Air Force Secretary Michael Donley warned that additional cost overruns and technical delays could force the White House to cut back on the total number of aircraft purchased.  (3/29/12)

National Interest: Arms Reduction: Just Do It
John Mueller argues that the United States should not wait for additional bilateral negotiations with Russia before reducing its nuclear arsenal further, because past nuclear arms limitation treaties have had unintended consequences.  Instead, Mueller encourages both countries to reduce their nuclear stockpiles independently as tensions between the two former Cold War rivals decrease.  (3/31/12)

Spencer Ackerman reports on the Navy’s latest long-term shipbuilding plan, which sets the total fleet goal at 300 ships, down from 313.  For the Lexington Institute’s Daniel Goure’s thoughts on the shipbuilding plan, click here(3/29/12)

The Ranking Member of the House Committee on Armed Services, Adam Smith (D-WA), has warned his fellow committee members that they cannot look at the Pentagon’s budget in isolation, because the country’s overall debt problems directly threatens America’s national security.  The president of the Council on Foreign Relations, Richard Haas, seems to agree(3/29/12)


Government Accountability Office: The Federal Government’s Long-Term Fiscal Outlook  (March, 2012)

Congressional Research Service: Afghanistan: Politics, Elections, and Government Performance  (3/30/12)

Government Accountability Office: Defense Acquisitions: Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs  (3/29/12)

Congressional Research Service: Guam: U.S. Defense Deployments  (3/29/12)