Project on Defense Alternatives (PDA) Special: Defense Sense
PDA, in conjunction with Chris Preble and Benjamin Friedman, has released a report which outlines $17-20 billion in national security savings this fiscal year. Some of the recommendations included in the report resemble amendments being offered to the National Defense Authorization Act this week. For a summary of the report, click here. (5/15/12)
State of Play
Legislative: The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is being considered by the full House this week. President Obama has already issued a veto threat for the legislation due to concerns about detainee language as well as impediments to implementation of the New START treaty. The White House has also raised concerns that the bill, as currently drafted, is $4 billion above the President’s budget request. This is especially ironic, given that the administration’s request is itself $4 billion above the spending caps put into law by the Budget Control Act. As a result, both spending proposals would violate current law. In issuing its veto threat, the administration chastised House Republicans for adding additional unneeded aviation assets; “Retaining large numbers of under-resourced aircraft in the fleet in today’s fiscally constrained environment would significantly increase the risk of a hollow force.” Meanwhile, HASC’s Chairman Buck McKeon (R-CA) fired off a letter to the Defense Department rebutting Secretary Panetta’s earlier criticism of the House NDAA. McKeon’s Senate counterpart, SASC Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI), has said that he intendeds to adhere to the BCA spending caps in the Senate version of the NDAA.
Today, the full House Committee on Appropriations approved the annual defense appropriations bill, which would provide more than $5.3 billion in procurement funding above the President’s budget request. Overall, the measure is $3.1 billion above the Defense Department’s request for FY13. Notably, the bill would block the proposed mothballing of the Global Hawk Block 30 drone fleet, add an additional DDG-51 destroyer, and prevent the administration from retiring three Navy cruisers. The bill would also add 11 more F/A-18E/Fs and seven additional C-130s. For a summary of items added by the committee to the President’s budget request, click here.
Speaker of the House John Boehner has called on Congress to extend the statutory debt limit before the November elections and is again insisting on spending cuts and “reforms” as a means of offsetting the debt limit increase. Boehner specifically said that tax increases could not be used as an offset. President Obama, meeting with Congressional leaders yesterday, reportedly insisted that Congress send him a “clean” debt limit extension free of spending cuts or tax increases.
Executive: A panel led by retired Vice-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. James Cartwright, has issued a report that recommends an 80 percent reduction in the United States’ nuclear arsenal, bringing the total number of weapons down to 900, as well as the elimination of all nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles. The head of the Air Force, Gen. Norton Schwartz, seems to disagree with Cartwright's assertions. And an anonymous, senior aerospace official has published a report on the Lexington Institute’s website, which recommends defense acquisition and regulatory reforms as an alternative to sequestration.
The Washington Post’s Greg Jaffe reports that the head of NATO forces in Afghanistan, U.S. General John Allen, will be leaving his current post early next year to take the helm of U.S. European Command. Following a 60 Minutes interview, in which two pilots discussed why they are refusing to fly the F-22, Secretary Panetta has instituted new restrictions on Raptor flights and training missions and has ordered the expedited instillation of new backup oxygen supply systems. During testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford warned that sequestration cuts would force the services to cut 50 ships from the current fleet-size of 285 vessels.
At a discussion held at AEI this week, former Pentagon under secretary Michèle Flournoy described the United States as being at a “strategic inflection point” where hard choices have to be made. Though she was vague on details, Flournoy made it clear that when it came to the administration's attitude toward defense savings, no program was considered sacred. She also noted that she wasn’t aware of any planning on behalf of the administration to budget for sequestration cuts, even though the Office of Management and Budget has said it will begin issuing sequestration directives by the end of this summer unless Congress takes significant action to nullify the automatic cuts.
Polling: Last week, the Stimson Center hosted an event to discuss the results of a recent Internet survey on defense spending. The survey, carefully designed to be as balanced as possible, was administered to 665 people, including Republicans, Democrats, and independents. Of respondents, 66 percent of Republicans and almost 90 percent of Democrats were in favor of military reductions. On average, respondents supported reducing the military budget by $103 billion this year, while a majority of those surveyed supported reductions of at least $83 billion. Both figures are substantially higher than the recommendations outlined in a new report by PDA, Chris Preble, and Benjamin Friedman, entitled Defense Sense, which recommends 18 national security cuts that could achieve $17-20 billion in savings this fiscal year, as well as the $55 billion in sequestration cuts scheduled to take effect next year.
Project on Defense Alternatives Perspective: The integrity of the deficit reduction process depends on not allowing accounting measures to give a false impression of savings or to arbitrarily shield any corner of discretionary spending from mandated reductions. The 2013 Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) fund, which is exempt from the caps in the Budget Control Act, includes a plus up for personnel cost of $4.5 billion dollars from the 2012 level of $1.6 billion even though the ratio of OCO deployments to total end strength has declined steadily in recent years. Thus we conclude there is no legitimate reason to increase personnel spending in OCO. Clearly, the Pentagon wishes to account for more of its personnel costs in OCO (not subject to caps) simply to free up more money in its base budget (subject to caps) for other things. This is not legitimate accounting and should be overturned. When we add this illegitimate transfer between accounts to the $4 billion above BCA spending caps already in the administration’s FY2013 request, the administration and Congress need to find an additional $8 billion to cut from national security accounts in order to comply with BCA.
Highlighting the new report, Defense Sense, Chris Preble argues that military spending reductions are prudent, possible, and would not entail any changes in the United States’ strategic posture. Preble highlights five key recommendations: Reductions of military personnel in Europe, reduction of active-component military personnel, a refocusing on proven missile defense technologies, and cancellation of the F-35B variant and Littoral Combat Ship programs. (5/15/12)
AOL Defense: Cartwright Targets F-35, AirSea Battle; Warns of $250B More Cuts (5/15/12)
"While we squeal a lot about that reduction, we were heading that way anyway," Hoss Cartwright, former Vice-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told an audience at the annual Joint Warfighting Conference. Cartwright predicts that $250 billion or more in military spending reductions will occur even if sequestration is nullified. Cartwright also expressed fears that the F-35, the Pentagon's most expensive program, might prove vulnerable to enemy cyber-attacks. (5/15/12)
Battleland: Budget Brain Freeze
Reporting on recent defense developments, in particular HASC Chair Buck McKeon’s letter to Panetta, Mark Thompson concludes that the defense budget mess will only get messier. Thompson notes that McKeon’s comments regarding the unpopular nature of defense reductions run contrary to the findings of a recent survey. In response to McKeon and fellow HASC member Rep. Randy Forbes’ (R-VA) assertions that the defense budget is dropping to a point where it can’t guarantee security, Thompson notes: “Leadership is about assessing risk, and putting the always-limited funds where they will do the most good. (5/14/12)
Other News and Commentary
Stars and Stripes: Cost to relocate Marines off Okinawa a moving target
In an agreement reached last month, five thousand U.S. Marines will be relocated from Okinawa, Japan to a site on Guam. Estimates put the move’s total cost for U.S. taxpayers at $5.8 billion, while Japan is offering to cover an additional $2.8 billion. However, GAO has found that a 2006 agreement to transfer 5,000 Marines off the island cost $13 billion more than the original $10.27 billion estimate. (5/15/12)
National Interest: Why Americans Are Less Hawkish than Their Leaders
In a piece on National Interest, Benjamin Friedman examines leadership decisions in the context of a recent defense spending survey, in which 90 percent of Democrats and two-thirds of Republicans supported military spending reductions. Friedman points to Gallup records which indicate that “substantially more Americans say that we spend too much on defense than say we spend too little.” Friedman suggests that the opinion gap, or “slack”, between decision makers and the general public is a product of relative power. This relative power also results in a national defense policy that is relatively unaffected by voters or international politics. (5/15/12)
The Aviationist: The mysterious U.S. F-15E Strike Eagle detachment in Djibouti. Are they conducting covert air strikes in Yemen?
David Cenciotti surmises that eight F-15E Strike Eagles, which have been stationed in the Horn of Africa for ten years, may be participating in airstrikes in Yemen along with Reaper drones. Yemeni residents reported airstrikes on a town in mid-March for which the government claimed responsibility, even though, at the time, Yemeni pilots were on strike. (5/11/12)
Lt. Gen. James Kowalski, who heads Air Force Global Strike Command, recently noted during a breakfast-event that Air Force plans for an “optionally manned” bomber could prove unaffordable under current budgetary constraints. Kowalski proclaimed that, given price limitations, regular operational capability and manned operability would take precedent over the need for developing a nuclear capable, unmanned platform. (5/11/12)
Chuck Spinney explicates the military-industrial-congressional complex bluntly in a critique of its failure to properly prioritize military interests. Spinney refers to the F-22 as “the poster-child” for the malevolence of the MICC where “factional politics place its interests ahead the national interest by enforcing political decisions that spend other people’s money and spill other people’s blood.” Spinney critiques the value system of the MICC, in which people should be prioritized, but hardware inevitably wins out. (5/15/12)
The Will and the Wallet: Walk the Talk
Matthew Leatherman notes that while Chairman Buck McKeon (R-CA) may receive criticism for the topline amount authorized by the NDAA, currently $8 billion above the BCA spending cap, the Chairman is remarkably consistent. Leatherman suggests that McKeon has leverage over the administration on this issue, because the President’s budget request is also above the spending caps placed in law by BCA. (5/15/12)
Navy Times: $2.2M sub mishap was ‘avoidable,’ report says
Sam Fellman reports on a submarine crew error, which left the USS Georgia out of commission for three months. Evidently, the cause of the mishap was a bolt accidentally left in the submarine’s gear housing during a routine inspection. As a result, the submarine was sidelined right before it was needed for action in Libya early last year. (5/14/12)
Los Angeles Times: Afghan police units tangled in criminal activity
David S. Cloud and Laura King report that a U.S.-backed effort to recruit Afghan police has not only failed to curtail violence, but has also resulted in increasing amounts of corruption. According to a recent RAND Corporation report, “insurgent activity in most of the 78 areas patrolled by the local police is not significantly different than in areas without the units.” These numbers contradict the Pentagon’s assertions that the police programs have been a success. (5/14/12)
Center for American Progress: The Top 10 Things to Know About Military Compensation
Larry Korb, Alex Rothman, and Max Hoffman identify potential steps to reduce military personnel costs without “breaking faith with the men and women who are serving or have served.” They explain that personnel costs have nearly doubled during the last decade, and propose a series of reforms outlined in a recent CAP report. The authors note that these reforms are all based around pay, healthcare, and retirement, and would not affect active-duty personnel. (5/11/12)
Gordon Adams asserts that regardless of how dramatic the conflict in Washington over defense spending may appear, Republican-proposed increases in defense spending will never pass in the Democratically-controlled Senate. Adams refers to the drama as “shadow-play” conceived for an election year and maintains that sequestration should never have been taken seriously. Gordon also argues that the Republican platform, built around “defending defense,” is both ill-conceived and ill-advised. Adams concludes that the American public gets it: “We built up, we are strong, the war is over, and it is time for Pentagon discipline.” (5/10/12)
Government Accountability Office: Warfighter Support: Army Has Taken Steps to Improve Reset Process, but More Complete Reporting of Equipment and Future Costs Is Needed (5/15/12)
Government Accountability Office: State Partnership Program: Improved Oversight, Guidance, and Training Needed for National Guard's Efforts with Foreign Partners (5/15/12)
Congressional Research Service: NATO’s Chicago Summit (5/14/12)
Congressional Budget Office: H.R. 4310, Preliminary estimate of the direct spending effects of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 (5/11/12)
Congressional Research Service: Pakistan’s Nuclear Weapons: Proliferation and Security Issues (5/10/12)
Congressional Research Service: Understanding China’s Political System (5/10/12)
Congressional Research Service: Afghanistan Casualties: Military Forces and Civilians (5/10/12)
Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College: Disjointed Ways, Disunified Means: Learning from America's Struggle to Build an Afghan Nation (5/10/12)
Global Zero U.S. Nuclear Policy Commission: Modernizing U.S. Nuclear Strategy, Force Structure and Posture (May, 2012)
The Lexington Institute: Meeting the DoD Sequestration-Level Cost Cuts Without Cutting Strategy, Programs or Readiness (April, 2012)
5/21/12: The Cato Institute: The Future of the U.S. Navy Surface Fleet
At 12:00 pm on May 21, 2012, the Cato Institute will host a discussion on the future of the U.S. naval surface fleet featuring Robert O. Work, Under Secretary of the Navy; Eric J. Labs, Senior Analyst for Naval Forces and Weapons, Congressional Budget Office; Ben Freeman, National Security Fellow, Project on Government Oversight; Christopher Preble, Vice President for Defense and Foreign Policy Studies, Cato Institute; moderated by Benjamin Friedman, Senior Fellow in Defense and Homeland Security Studies, Cato Institute. The discussion is likely to focus on Freeman's latest study on the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), with response from Under Secretary of the Navy Robert Work. Work has emerged as one of the most outspoken advocates for the LCS. To RSVP, click here.
Compiled and submitted by:
Ethan R. Rosenkranz, program associate
Project on Defense Alternatives (PDA)
Ethan R. Rosenkranz, program associate
Project on Defense Alternatives (PDA)