Friday, May 11, 2012

5/11/12 RD Bulletin: House GOP Attempts to Block Sequester as Obama Threatens Veto

PDA Reset Defense Bulletin – 5/11/12
ed. Ethan R. Rosenkranz

State of Play

Legislative: The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense approved its annual spending bill behind closed doors this week, providing $607.7 billion for National Defense including war funding costs and $519.2 billion for the Pentagon’s base budget.  This base budget is $3.1 billion over the President’s FY13 request and even higher than the defense cap placed in law by the Budget Control Act.  Included in the bill is $278 million for the Global Hawk Block 30 drone, which the administration has proposed cancelling, as well as a provision halting planned retirements and reassignments of National Guard and Reserve assets until Congress and GAO have a chance to further study the issue.   The bill also blocks the proposed mothballing of the C-27J cargo plane.  The House Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations has released an initial version of its annual spending bill that would provide $40.1 billion for the State Department’s base budget (excluding OCO funding), which represents a 14 percent cut from the President’s budget request.   House Appropriators have also approved their version of the Military Construction and Veterans Administration spending bill, which provides $71.7 billion in discretionary spending, a figure roughly $700 million below the administration’s FY13 request. 

The House Committee on Armed Services held a markup of its annual authorization bill this week, with the legislation expected to hit the House Floor next week.  Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) offered an amendment, which was defeated, that would have held back half of the procurement funding for the F-35 until the Pentagon can provide Congress with an initial operating capability (IOC) date for the JSF.  The Ranking Member of the committee, Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) offered a substitute amendment that was adopted to require the Pentagon to provide an IOC date by December 31, 2012; but would not punish DoD for failing to meet the requirement.  The panel also adopted an amendment which requires GAO to study hull cracks, engine failure, and other problems with the Littoral Combat Ship as well as an amendment to block the Pentagon from considering or planning new rounds of base closures.   Pentagon leaders were quick to blast the HASC proposal saying it could endanger funding for training and equipment, telling reporters that, ““If members try to restore their favorite programs without regard to an overall strategy, the cuts will have to come from areas that could impact overall readiness.  There is no free lunch here. Every dollar that is added will have to be offset by cuts in national security.”

Meanwhile, CQ Today reports that Senate Appropriators will provide an additional $5.1 billion in OCO funding for the Department of Defense while cutting the same amount from the State Department’s FY13 OCO request.  This is in order to fulfill President Obama’s FY13 defense request while staying within the spending caps implemented by the Budget Control Act.  And a group of bipartisan senators has written the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Seapower Subcommittee requesting authorization for the Pentagon to procure an additional Virginia-class submarine and DDG-51 destroyer over the next five years. 

The House passed legislation this week sponsored by Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) that would prevent sequestration from taking effect next year and replace the pending automatic cuts with more than $300 billion in reductions to domestic programs.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid responded to the bill by declaring that any compromise to avoid sequestration must include new sources of government revenue, the President has vowed to veto Ryan's legislation, and Secretary Panetta later told reporters that “defense should not be exempt from doing its share to reduce the deficit.”    House Democrats were denied a chance to offer an alternative plan that would have included cuts to agricultural assistance programs, implementation of the so-called “Buffet Rule,” and cuts to oil and natural gas subsidies.  Neither the Democratic nor Republican leadership have so far endorsed further defense savings as a means of replacing automatic cuts. 

Executive: Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness, the Army and Marine Corps vice-chiefs asserted that sequestration would force the two services to involuntarily separate up to 225,000 personnel in addition to the proposed reduction of 107,000 Corps and Army personnel over the next six years.  All four vice-chiefs implored Congress to quickly remove the sequester and not wait until the last minute to strike a deal.  Pentagon leaders have asked for one additional year of funding for the Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS) as House appropriators zeroed out funds for the program in its annual spending bill this week.  DoD will still move forward with plans to test the interceptor this coming November regardless of whether Congress provides funding this fiscal year. 

Last weekend, two Air National Guard pilots appeared on 60 Minutes to discuss why they are refusing to fly F-22 Raptors, which have been plagued by unusually high incidents of oxygen-supply malfunctions causing pilots to suffer hypoxia.  The two pilots have now been declared whistleblowers, and the head of Air Combat Command says he will begin flying F-22s himself in order to dispel concern amongst pilots.  The White House has nominated the commander of Air Forces Europe, Gen. Mark Welch III, to replace the head of the Air Force, Gen. Norton Schwartz, later this year.  AOL Defense’s Colin Clark had earlier predicted the appointment

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, and Secretary Panetta are urging support for Congressional ratification of the Law of the Sea Convention along with Senate Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) . The Center for American Progress has published a new report on military compensation reform, which finds that the current system is no longer suited for the all-volunteer force and calls for modest reforms to address the rapid growth in benefit costs.  In addition, the Project on Government Oversight and Taxpayers for Common Sense have released an updated version of their previous savings proposal that outlines almost $700 billion in military savings over ten years. 


R. Jeffrey Smith reports on the results of an innovative survey, produced by the Center for Public Integrity, the Program for Public Consultation, and the Stimson Center, which allowed randomly selected respondents to adjust defense spending and priorities in a detailed manner. The average respondent cut $103 billion, or about 18 percent from the Pentagon’s budget, almost double the $55 billion in sequestration cuts scheduled to take effect next year. In addition respondents cut an average of 43 percent of funding for the Afghanistan conflict, highlighting disdain for the unpopular conflict.  (Reset Defense will provide more coverage on this survey in next week’s edition).  (5/10/12)

Gov. Romney’s proposed defense spending plan could have dramatic repercussions for the budget deficit.  According to CNAS security analyst Travis Sharp, Romney’s plan to maintain the defense budget at 4 percent of GDP would increase military spending by about $2.1 trillion over ten years. Sharp notes that increased military spending does not necessarily correlate to a more secure global environment: “You can never eliminate all the risk — no matter how much you spend.” (5/10/12)

A senior Pentagon official is questioning the Navy’s ability to fund a replacement platform for the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, which would be retired in the 2030s.  The Navy says that it will replace earlier versions of the F/A-18 with its F-35C, but needs a different replacement platform for the E/F variant.  A retired Marine Corps general, Lt. Gen. Emerson Gardner says the F/A-XX program raises questions about the Navy’s commitment to the F-35C.  For Philip Ewing’s thoughts on the F/A-XX, click here(5/4/12)

While highlighting the recent incidents of pilots unwilling to fly the F-22, Bill Hartung argues that not only is the F-22 "a danger to its pilots, it has little use in the real world." Hartung points out that it took a concerted effort by SASC Ranking Member John McCain (R-AZ) and Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI), as well as former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and a veto threat from President Obama, just to halve the number of planes under contract. The ever-more expensive F-35 appears to be the next budgetary battle: "Let's hope the F-35 doesn't become the next generation's F-22 – a plane we don't need at a price we can't afford." (5/3/12)

Other News and Commentary

A Coast Guard vessel put into operation in October, 2011, has been found to have "holes and spots of rust" in the hull.  According to the vessel's captain, Charles Cashin, this is extremely unusual for a ship of this age.  The cutter, known as the Stratton, is third in a recent delivery of 418-foot ships to the Coast Guard in an attempt to modernize their aging fleet.  Design flaws are haunting the Navy as well since its first two Littoral Combat Ships appear to be experiencing similar symptoms.  Of the two variants of the LCS, the General Dynamics model suffers from symptoms of rust, and the Lockheed Martin version "can hardly even make it out of the harbor." (5/8/12)

Conservative commentator Mackenzie Eagleton argues that Congress will be just as unable to prevent sequestration during the lame duck session as it is today.  Eagleton further asserts that a short-term fix to sequestration would likely be just as disastrous as ignoring the cuts altogether, and she makes the case that the effects of sequestration are already being felt by the defense industrial base.  (5/8/12)

In an exclusive interview with AOL Defense, Rear Adm. Thomas Rowden discusses the troubled Littoral Combat Ship program and admits that the Navy is still working to determine “everything from concepts of operation to damage control to the ships' top speed [which] is still potentially open to revision.”  Rowden points out that the first two LCS were purchased with R&D funds, not through the traditional shipbuilding account, because the service is still trying to figure out how they’re going to “utilize these ships.”  Meanwhile, the Navy’s newest LCS has completed acceptance trials and will be delivered to the service later this spring. (5/8/12)

The National Interest: Debunking the Missile-Defense Myth
Scientists have been claiming for decades that missile defense simply doesn't work.  Now, nuclear physicist Yousaf Butt reports that the Pentagon's Defense Science Board (DSB) has confirmed that “while missile defense will create incentives for U.S. adversaries and competitors to up their ballistic-missile stockpiles, it won't provide any combat capability to counteract these enlarged arsenals."  A recent GAO study has found that the reason unworkable programs progress so far in the procurement process is that the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) does not fully test incremental processes required for programs to function.  (5/7/12)

R. Jeffrey Smith and Aaron Mehta, managing editor and reporter (respectively) at the Center for Public Integrity, note that the Pentagon has exhibited sloppy implementation of rules intended to protect whistleblowers in the department.  Smith and Mehta allege that in several 2010 cases reviewed by investigators, the Directorate for Military Reprisal Investigations dismissed circumstances of individuals suffering serious punishments as a result of issuing complaints.  In response, SASC chair Carl Levin (D-MI) and ranking member John McCain (R-AZ) have written a letter to Secretary of Defense Panetta requesting a copy of the investigator's report and a reopening of some closed reprisal cases. (5/5/12)

The Will and the Wallet: Burning a Hole in Your Pocket
Russell Rumbaugh discusses the differences between the Senate and House 302(b) allocations, which govern how discretionary spending is dispersed through the appropriations process.  Rumbaugh reports that the House appropriators have increased the defense subcommittee’s allocation by $5 billion above the President’s request while the House budget committee set an allocation for Function 050 that is only $3.7 billion above the President’s request.  However, Rumbaugh points out that House Republicans will have a lot of latitude to move money between different national security accounts, such as the Department of Energy’s nuclear weapons program.  (5/3/12)

Gordon Adams responds to a recent New York Times piece, which reported that Gen. Ray Odierno is trying to restructure the Army to replicate the successful tactics of Special Operations Forces during the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Adams, however, points out that the American military has made a mess of Iraq and Afghanistan, without successfully stabilizing either country, and he questions why Odierno would want to implement similar strategies in Africa.  (5/3/12)

Beginning with the Reagan administration's Packard Commission and continuing most recently with last month's Defense Business Board task force, Walter Pincus reports on the quagmire of defense procurement. The main conclusion of the recently released Defense Business Board report was that the three separate processes of military requirements, civilian-directed, and hybrid budgeting acquisition should be merged with a common documentation. The Packard commission came to the same conclusion sixty years ago.  Pincus says, "It’s time to pay attention." (5/2/12)


Congressional Budget Office: Status of Discretionary Appropriations: FY 2013 House (5/9/12)

Project on Government Oversight and Taxpayers for Common Sense: Spending Even Less, Spending Even Smarter: Recommendations for National Security Savings, FY 2013 to FY 2022  (5/8/12)

Congressional Budget Office: SequesterReplacement Reconciliation Act  (5/8/12)

Congressional Budget Office: Monthly Budget Review (5/8/12)


Center for Strategic and Budgetary Studies: The FY2013 Defense Budget and the New Strategy-Reality Gap (5/3/12)


At 1:00 pm on May 15, 2012, the American Enterprise Institute, the Center for a New American Security and the New America Foundation will host a discussion on the U.S. national security budget featuring former Under Secretary for Defense for Policy, Michèle Flournoy.  “With the sequestration mechanism set to cut at least $500 billion from the Department of Defense, on top of budget reductions in recent years, discussants will consider an issue sure to face the next administration: U.S. defense spending in the context of American grand strategy.”  Click here to RSVP.