State of Play
Executive: In a surprise visit to Afghanistan this week, President Obama and President Hamid Karzai signed a long-term strategic agreement governing future military, diplomatic, and economic relations between the two nations. However, the agreement is short on specifics, and does not guarantee specific amounts of future U.S. aid to Afghanistan nor does it state the exact levels of NATO or U.S. troops expected to remain past 2014. In its semi-annual report to Congress on stability operations in Afghanistan, the Pentagon notes that corruption in the Afghan government, militant sanctuaries in Pakistan, and poor U.S.-Pakistani relations pose the largest obstacles to long-term security in Afghanistan.
Despite the fact that the services have declined to submit to Congress an annual unfunded priorities list, U.S. Special Operations Command has requested $143 million for improved intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities. The Navy has proposed retiring four cruisers in FY13 as part of its overall savings plan; however HASC has moved to prohibit funding for the cruisers’ retirement as part of its markup of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The NDAA mark also blocks the proposed decommissioning of the Global Hawk Block 30 drone, does not include proposed funding for two new rounds of base closures, and it provides nearly $400 million in unrequested funding for heavy combat vehicles. The House committee has also added language increasing procurement of Virginia-class submarines in FY14, and it appears as if the Senate may concur.
A small number of Air Force pilots are refusing to operate the F-22 Raptor following an official investigation that could not determine the root cause of eleven malfunctions in the oxygen-supply system. Meanwhile, the United States has deployed an unknown number of F-22s to the United Arab Emirates, which Iran has called a “plot” by the United States and Israel to create instability in the region, although analysts have noted that this batch of F-22s has not been upgraded to engage ground targets. The United States also appears to be reversing its decision not to sell new F-16s to Taiwan raising tensions with China.
The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget has created an online simulator which allows the public to simulate how they would tackle the federal budget deficit. 81 percent of respondents chose to decrease U.S. troop levels, while 75 percent of respondents support a reduction in shipbuilding.
Legislative: House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) has introduced H.R.4966, the Sequester Replacement Act of 2012, which would prevent the majority of sequestration cuts in Fiscal Year 2013 and lower the total discretionary spending cap for FY13 by $19 billion to conform to the recently passed House budget resolution. Ryan is also in the process of crafting a deficit reduction package, which will be called the Sequester Replacement Reconciliation Act and will draw on savings recommendations issued by six standing committees under the reconciliation process. This savings package is intended to replace the sequestration cuts scheduled to take place next year. The House Budget Committee is expected to report out the legislation on May 7, and the package could hit the House Floor later that week. For more on the deficit reduction package’s contents, click here.
The House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense is expected to hold its markup of the annual defense appropriations bill either the week of May 7 or May 14. The House Armed Services Committee is expected to markup the National Defense Authorization Act on May 9. The bill would provide $554 billion in Function 050 discretionary spending, which is roughly $4 billion above the President’s budget request, and around $8 billion above the cap instituted by the Budget Control Act.
Project on Defense Alternatives Perspective: While speaking at the Stimson Center this week, the head of the Air Force, Gen. Norton Schwartz, warned that the quickest way to a hollow force was to maintain current force structure while providing the services with less funding. “If you give us force structure back, give us the money, too, because the quickest way I know to a hollow force is to give us structure and no money. It’s simple as that.”
PDA co-director Charles Knight notes that Gen. Schwartz is playing to both sides of the aisle when he warns HASC against hollowing the force by not accepting force structure reductions called for in the White House’s FY13 budget, and then says, “Give us the money” if the Republican controlled House insists on disallowing the cuts. Of course, Schwartz is not responsible for keeping government spending within the budget caps that Democrats and Republicans together have decided to impose on spending. In fact, he only represents the interests of the Air Force. Maybe Schwartz would recommend paying for those HASC plus-ups for the Air Force by cutting a ship or two from the Navy’s budget? I am sure he’d never say that out loud, but that is one reasonable implication of his comments.
U.S. News and World Report: 6 Reasons America Is Safer Under Obama
Larry Korb explores six reasons why President Obama has made the United States safer since taking office, including bin Laden’s death as well as the redeployment of U.S. troops from Iraq. Korb also asserts that Obama’s surge in Afghanistan has shown positive results (though some would disagree) and that the President has been able to significantly constrain Iran’s ability to advance its nuclear program. (5/2/12)
Project on Government Oversight: A Response to the Navy's "Vigorous Defense" of the Littoral Combat Ship
A letter sent by POGO last week to the heads of the Armed Services Committees raising concerns about the troubled Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program has caused quite a stir on Capitol Hill prompting the Navy to respond with “uncharacteristic alacrity.” As a result, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), a member of HASC, has added an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act to increase reporting requirement for the LCS. And the Chairman and Ranking Member of SASC have officially requested that GAO conduct a report on the LCS. (5/1/12)
Foreign Policy: The Jet That Ate the Pentagon
Winslow Wheeler highlights ongoing problems with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, including its skyrocketing cost, schedule delays, and poor performance. According to a recently released GAO report, the JSF program is expected to consume 38 percent of “future procurement funding needed,” which is “enough to fund the remaining procurement costs of the next 15 largest programs.” (4/26/12)
Other News and Commentary
Battleland: The Pentagon’s Million-Dollar Aviation Plan
Winslow Wheeler analyzes the Pentagon’s long-term aviation plan and finds that it does not begin to address the fundamental challenges of an “aging, shrinking, less-trained force,” all at an increasing price. (5/1/12)
A new GAO report raises concern about the pace of F-22 upgrades currently taking place. GAO estimates that by the time all of the F-22s have been fully modernized, a large number of the aircraft will have already flown 20 percent of their total service lives. (5/1/12)
Last week, the House Armed Services moved to block the Defense Department’s proposals to decommission the Global Hawk Block 30 drone fleet and make reductions in the Air National Guard. Responding to these developments, the head of the Air Force, Gen. Norton Schwartz, warned that the quickest way to a hollow force was to maintain current force structure while providing the services with less funding. “If you give us force structure back, give us the money, too, because the quickest way I know to a hollow force is to give us structure and no money. It’s simple as that,” Schwartz proclaimed to the audience at the Stimson Center. (5/1/12)
Defense News: U.S. Funds May Have Helped Iraq Insurgents: Report
A report published by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction has found that some of the $4 billion in funding for the Commander’s Emergency Response Program (CERP) likely was dispersed to insurgents and corrupt local officials. (5/1/12)
The Lexington Institute’s Loren Thompson analyzes the current ballistic missile threats to the United States and finds that the most threatening states that possess ballistic missile technology do not have the range or technological sophistication to threaten the United States homeland. (5/1/12)
Washington Post: Sorting through the defense distortions
Walter Pincus points out some of the inaccuracies presented by one of Governor Mitt Romney’s key national security advisors, John Lehman. On a recent conference call, Lehman accused the Obama Administration of proposing nuclear reductions that would bring the U.S. arsenal down to 300 weapons (which it has not) and claimed that the White House’s most recent budget submission proposed cutting defense spending by $1 trillion (which it did not). (4/30/12)
In past years, controversial provisions on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and the detention of terrorist suspects has slowed passage of the National Defense Authorization Act, however, HASC Chairman Buck McKeon (R-CA) is optimistic that this year’s NDAA can be completed on time before the election. But because McKeon’s bill will likely be almost $8 billion above the Senate version, reconciling the two pieces of legislation could prove difficult. (4/29/12)
Defense News: U.S. House Aims To Reverse Defense Cuts
The administration’s FY13 budget begins the process of saving close to $500 billion from previously planned spending levels as mandated by the Budget Control Act. Despite having voted for this law, Chairman Buck McKeon and fellow GOP members of the committee have blocked several savings proposals, including termination of the Global Hawk Block 30 drone, reductions in Abrams upgrades, and a decrease in the number of ballistic missile submarines. (4/29/12)
National Interest: The Fog of More
Jonathan E. Hillman laments the fact that the United States has not learned the lessons of the Vietnam War, namely that throwing more money and resources at an unwinnable war is futile and distracts policymakers and the public from burgeoning problems at home. Ultimately, Hillman recommends a rebalancing of America’s foreign policy: “Instead of hawkishness, toughness must mean resiliency: the ability to take a blow, take a breath and react accordingly. Strength must mean confidence—in our unrivaled military capabilities, the durability of our democracy, and our willingness to suffer any hardship and pay any price to defend vital U.S. interests.” (4/30/12)
Battleland: Why To Cancel A Pentagon Procurement Program
Air Force acquisition officer, Lt. Col. Dan Ward, identifies three metrics to evaluate whether the Pentagon should proceed with a weapons system program: affordability, necessity, and efficacy. Using these three metrics, Ward compares the proposed cancellation of the C-27J cargo plane with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and asks the question, “If the Spartan is an unaffordable luxury at $2B, it does beg the question of the JSF’s affordability at $395B. We can afford the expensive one but not the cheap one?” (4/27/12)
Early Warning Blog: The Sound Of Future Base Closures Getting Louder And Closer
Despite serious Congressional opposition to a new round of domestic base closures, Daniel Goure asserts that there is serious excess in domestic military infrastructure. Goure predicts, “What are only noises at this moment will soon become a loud and incessant drumbeat for reducing the Pentagon’s infrastructure and particularly cutting the number of depots and maintenance centers.” (4/27/12)
Although the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces only met for 10 minutes to mark up its portion of the National Defense Authorization Act, statements submitted for the record shine light on potential upcoming conflicts over nuclear weapons and missile defense. In her submitted statement, ranking member Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) raised concerns about increases in funding for nuclear weapons and the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) missile defense program. (4/26/12)
Government Accountability Office: F-22A Modernization Program Faces Cost, Technical, and Sustainment Risks (5/2/12)
Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR): Quarterly Report to United States Congress (4/30/12)
Congressional Research Service: Budget “Sequestration” and Selected Program Exemptions and Special Rules (4/27/12)
Congressional Budget Office: FY 2013 Senate Current Status of Discretionary Appropriations (4/26/12)
Congressional Research Service: Cybersecurity: Authoritative Reports and Resources (4/26/12)
Congressional Research Service: Foreign Assistance to North Korea (4/26/12)
Department of Defense: Report on Progress Toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan: United States Plan for Sustaining the Afghanistan National Security Forces (April, 2012)
RAND Corporation: U.S. Military Information Operations in Afghanistan Effectiveness of Psychological Operations 2001–2010 (April, 202)
Government Accountability Office: Comparison of F-22A and Legacy Fighter Modernization Programs (4/26/12)
Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget: Americans Tackle the Debt Assessing the Results of CRFB’s Budget Simulator (4/26/12)
Congressional Research Service: The Budget Control Act of 2011: The Effects on Spending and the Budget Deficit When the Automatic Spending Cuts Are Implemented (4/26/12)
Department of Defense: Annual Aviation Inventory and Funding Plan Fiscal Years 2013-2042 (March, 2012)