Thursday, June 20, 2013

620/13 RD Bulletin: Changes to U.S. Nuke Posture on the Way?

News: The Senate appropriations subcommittee on defense held a hearing on the F-35 program this week during which Chairman Dick Durbin questioned whether the program was “too big to fail,” and the Brookings Institution’s Michael O’Hanlon recommended cutting the total F-35 buy in half. 
News: The Pentagon has released a new report on the United States’ nuclear posture, which could clear the way for additional nuclear weapons reductions even though the guidance reaffirms the necessity of the nuclear ‘triad.’ 
PDA Perspective: President Obama’s welcome announcement of intent to negotiate a further reduction in strategic nuclear weapons with Russia has the potential to save a fair amount of money over the next decade and beyond.

State of Play
Speaking in Berlin this week, President Obama announced his intention to pursue additional bilateral nuclear weapons reductions with Russia that could see the United States’ nuclear stockpile culled by one-third.  The Pentagon shortly followed up with a new report on the United States’ nuclear deterrent strategy, in which senior military officials recognize “the significantly diminished possibility of a disarming surprise nuclear attack.” 
While the report notes that the United States will only use nuclear weapons in “extreme circumstances,” it also unequivocally calls for the maintenance of the United States’ nuclear ‘triad,’ which employs three unique delivery systems as a nuclear deterrent.  “The United States will maintain a nuclear Triad, consisting of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and nuclear-capable heavy bombers. Retaining all three Triad legs will best maintain strategic stability at reasonable cost, while hedging against potential technical problems or vulnerabilities,” the report declares. 
By all accounts, the Strategic Choices and Management Review has been completed at the Pentagon, and is now being mulled over by senior military officials.  The review is intended to evaluate whether the Pentagon’s current defense posture can be executed with approximately $500 billion in defense spending reductions occurring as a result of sequestration.  While not disclosing the results of the review, Chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey has alluded that full sequestration cuts of $500 billion would entail “unacceptable risk,” while cuts on the magnitude of $150 billion over the next decade would not require a reformulation of the United States’ defense posture. 
In an interview with Inside Defense following a House Budget Committee appearance, General Dempsey explained that, for the first time ever, the forthcoming 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) may examine multiple fiscal scenarios.  "Otherwise, it will be built on… an unreasonable foundation.”  Dempsey noted.  The general further added that the department will be “looking at a number of different fiscal futures” during the QDR process.  Interestingly, the last QDR, conducted in 2010, was statutorily prevented from considering resource constraints.  Given Dempsey’s recent comments, it appears highly likely that the forthcoming 2014 QDR will indeed take resource constraints into consideration.   
Last week, the House completed consideration of its version of the annual National Defense Authorization Act soon after the Senate Armed Services Committee completed its markup.  Though, theoretically, the Senate bill is ready for Floor action now; last year, the bill did not hit the Senate Floor until November.  HASC chair Buck McKeon (R-CA) is pressing his senate colleagues to consider the bill sooner rather than latter because of provisions aimed at addressing pervasive carnal assault in the military.  SASC chair Carl Levin (D-MI) says he doubts that the bill will receive Floor consideration before the July 4 recess.
The House will likely take up its version of the annual military spending bill sometime after the July 4 recess, a measure which would provide $512.5 billion for the Pentagon’s base budget (excluding military construction and family housing).  This topline amount is roughly $3.4 billion below the President’s budget request.  According to Russell Rumbaugh of the Stimson Center, the House appropriations bill is approximately $50 billion over the FY14 spending caps currently in law.  The Senate Appropriations Committee has yet to unveil its version of the military spending bill, but Rumbaugh tells Reset Defense he believes the Senate will mark to pre-sequester numbers, somewhere north of $500 billion.  When the House bill hits the Floor, several members are expected to offer amendments that would reduce the topline amount appropriated by a significant amount. 
The Army has concluded the competition for a new service carbine to replace the M4 without selecting a follow-on – thus effectively terminating the $1.8 billion Individual Carbine program.  According to Breaking Defense, this is the second M4 replacement competition within the past decade that has concluded without a winner, even though Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) has been fighting tooth and nail since 2007 for the Army to consider alternatives to the current carbine.  Anticipating the Army’s recent decision, the Senate version of the NDAA proposes cutting funding for the M4 replacement program.  However, Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA), a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, offered an amendment to the House version of the NDAA that would prevent the Army from “cancelling” the Individual Carbine program.  Fortunately for the service, it has “concluded” the competition without selecting a winner, rather than “cancelling” the program outright. 
Last week, the Pentagon released a 438-page report detailing how sequestration will impact funding for specific weapons programs in Fiscal Year 2013.  The analysis notes that $9.8 billion will be cut from the Pentagon’s procurement account while an additional $6 billion will be cut from research and development.  Inside Defense reports that the Pentagon was able to tap a “huge reserve” of unobligated balances in order to mitigate the impact of sequestration on its weapons modernization accounts in Fiscal Year 2013.  For the Pentagon’s troubled F-35 program, this will likely mean five fewer jets this year. 
Speaking of the F-35, it received a full-throated defense before the Senate defense appropriations subcommittee this week, chaired by Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL).  Appearing before the subcommittee was a full roster of senior defense officials, including the heads of the Navy, Air Force, F-35 program, the Pentagon’s top tester and acquisition official, and the lead acquisition expert at GAO.  While the Pentagon brass repeated how critical the aircraft is to the United States’ future military capabilities, the Pentagon’s top weapons tester, Michael Gilmore, noted how much concurrency development has driven up the program’s costs: “Production in this program started before there was any flight testing at all, which was unprecedented in the history of aircraft development programs. And, so, that’s about as concurrent as you can get. That’s pretty much 100% concurrency. Obviously that’s a bad thing.” 
During the subcommittee hearing, Chairman Durbin questioned whether the F-35 program was “too big to fail,” while the Brookings Institution’s Michael O’Hanlon recommended cutting the total F-35 buy in half and only purchasing approximately 1,250 aircraft.  Though, O’Hanlon recognizes that savings from his proposal would be modest because of the cost of purchasing alternative aircraft and the fact that the per-unit cost of the F-35 would increase as the total procurement buy fell.  O’Hanlon estimates that cutting the total buy in half would save roughly 20-25 percent of the total program cost.  The Pentagon expects to significantly ramp up procurement of the F-35 in Fiscal Year 2015. 
Bloomberg’s Tony Capaccio reported this week that the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), the purchasing arm of the Pentagon, is seeking $13.7 million in refunds from Boeing after the contractor overcharged the DLA for spare parts.  Specifically, an audit found that Boeing was charging the U.S. government $2,286 a piece for aluminum “bearing sleeves” when the per-unit cost should have been around $10.  Capaccio further reports that back in May of 2011, a separate Inspector General audit found that Boeing had overcharged the Pentagon $13 million for Army depot contracts.
Project on Defense Alternatives Perspective
President Obama has announced he will seek to negotiate with Russia a further reduction in strategic nuclear weapons.  This welcome step has the potential to save a fair amount of money over the next decade and beyond.  In Berlin this week, the President declared that “we can ensure the security of America and our allies, and maintain a strong and credible strategic deterrent, while reducing our deployed strategic nuclear weapons by up to one-third.”
This decision has been anticipated since early in the year.  Obama’s stated intention “to seek negotiated cuts with Russia” has sufficient ambiguity to allow for a new treaty requiring Senate ratification or, as David Sanger of the New York Times has written,  “an informal agreement with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia for mutual cuts within the framework of the new Start — but without the need for ratification.” 
Saving money is very likely one of the reasons Obama is now moving ahead with more reductions in strategic weaponry, reasoning that is no doubt widely supported among those in the military who would much prefer to spend those dollars elsewhere.  In order to realize this potential he will need to avoid an extended Congressional fight that a treaty ratification process will entail.   Instead, the cuts will have to begin soon and involve a series of verified incremental reciprocal reductions between the United States and Russia.
And there is a fair amount of money to be saved.  A recent report from the Arms Control Association found nearly $40 billion in savings from slowing modernization and reducing the numbers of ballistic missile submarines, strategic bombers, and ICBMs.  As the Project on Defense Alternatives noted in February:  “How much will be saved … will depend on the structure of the residual nuclear forces. There are some components of strategic forces that cost much more than others, and the overall complexity of the strategic force incurs added costs.” 
While Obama spoke in Berlin, Secretary Hagel was reassuring an audience at the University of Nebraska that the Pentagon was not planning to restructure its strategic forces while reducing numbers of weapons.  Hagel pledged to “retain a triad of bombers, ICBMs, and ballistic missile submarines.”  This commitment to a strategic structure developed during the Cold War will reduce the savings that the Obama administration will be able to realize from nuclear weapons reductions.
PDA has called for “…a future level of 900 warheads on 340 launchers. This would be a first step toward a ‘minimal deterrence’ posture. Following on the recommendations of the Sustainable Defense Task Force, this reduction would involve moving from a triad posture to a dyad by retiring the bomber leg.  Also reduced would be the number of Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines from 14 today to 7 in the future.”
News and Commentary
“Since President Obama took office, he has cut the defense budget by 10%. The President has significantly reduced the planned sizes of the Army and Marine Corps. He has overseen the cancellation of dozens of major equipment programs, and ended production at several long-standing marquee manufacturing lines across the country. But the President has grown the size of the federal civilian workforce during his tenure. And the 760,000-large Pentagon civilian workforce is no exception. Since coming into office, the President has set into motion a plan to cut the active-duty military by roughly 12%. Meanwhile, the Department of Defense civilian workforce has grown by about 13 percent.” (6/20/13)
Foreign Policy: Could Killer Robots Bring World Peace?John Arquila
“Clearly, 21st century military affairs are already being driven by the quest to blend human soldiers with intelligent machines in the most artful fashion. For example, in urban battles, where casualties have always been high, it will be better to send a robot into the rubble first to scout out a building before the human troops advance. In future naval engagements, where the risk of killing civilians will be close to nil out at sea, robot attack craft might be the smartest weapon to use, particularly in an emerging era of supersonic anti-ship missiles that will imperil aircraft carriers and other large vessels. In the air, robots will pilot advanced jets built to perform at extreme G-forces that the human body could never tolerate. As Peter Singer has observed in his book Wired for War, robots are now implementing the swarming concept that my partner David Ronfeldt and I developed over a decade ago -- the notion of attacking from several directions at the same time -- at least in the United States military.” (6/19/13)
“After more than a decade of almost constant expansion, the Pentagon’s policy-making apparatus may be about to experience the bite of the budget-cut fever that is gripping Washington… The change that carries the heaviest consequences revolves around eliminating the Assistant Secretary of Defense (ASD) for Homeland Defense and Americas’ Security Affairs, which was created in 2003 to coordinate domestic agencies that work on homeland preparedness, as well as to provide oversight of the US military’s Northern and Southern Commands.” (6/19/13)
“America’s struggle to understand, anticipate, and outsmart its enemies has been rigorously discussed since 9/11. Where the story becomes turgid—where we stop paying attention—is on the crucial question of how that intelligence, once gathered, is organized and made available in a way that will allow it to actually be put to use. Where the days following the September 11 attacks found us painfully groping for on-the-ground assets in Afghanistan, today our intel units have gobs of information they have no idea what to do with, such as thousands of detainee cell-phone numbers that have yet to be analyzed. The immortal Donald Rumsfeld litany of ‘known unknowns’ leaves off the most infuriating conundrum of all—namely, that there are also unknown knowns: disjointed facts that languish in a warehouse or in the ether, unreachable to the cops or colonels who urgently need them but aren’t aware that such facts are already there for the asking.”  (6/19/13)
Foreign Policy: Time to Pull Our Troops from EuropeSean Kay
“NATO has become politically unmanageable, militarily dysfunctional, and now risks strategic irrelevance. Operations in Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Libya demonstrated serious difficulties in decision-making by consensus and dangerous operational inefficiencies. When America sought to ‘lead from behind’ in Libya, it was, months into the war, still providing the primary enabling forces. In the recent French intervention in Mali, the United States was called on to supply similar, and expensive, capacities to sustain military operations. America's European allies have no incentive to change this burden-sharing problem knowing the United States will fill operational gaps, freeing them to make massive cuts in the name of austerity.”  (6/18/13)
Foreign Policy: A Wink and Nod Toward Sequestration - Gordon Adams
“While the nation swirls in the Sufi-dance around surveillance, the congressional defense committees have had their heads down, marking up the DOD money bills for the coming fiscal year. When it comes to the overall totals in the defense money bills, the House committees are following the theme of sequestration-avoidance, which has characterized the congressional approach to defense all this year. This means providing funds more or less around the levels requested by the administration. But the committees, especially the appropriators (who provide the real money), are also winking and nodding toward the reality that the sequester will probably continue this year and may well come around again next January if there is no broader agreement on the federal budget this year. Using every flexible tool they can find, the committees are looking for ways to make DOD whole, as far as possible.”  (6/18/13)
Los Angeles Times: F-22 program produces few planes, soaring costs - Ralph Vartabedian, W.J. Hennigan
“At the heart of the ongoing weapons acquisition problem, retired military leaders and defense experts say, is a failure by the Pentagon and Congress to acknowledge at the outset the true cost and technical difficulties of building complex systems like the F-22. The military launches ambitious programs based on low-ball estimates by contractors, critics say. Eager to speed money to their home states, members of Congress allocate funding for these leading-edge defense programs, even before the technologies are developed and tested.”  (6/16/13)
“The House panel that funds defense spending said it’s ‘disturbed by the number of problems’ marring the deployment to Asia of the Navy’s first Littoral Combat Ship. The troubles “appear to be beyond the crew’s capability to handle, especially given that the LCS should have been in an extremely high state of readiness,” the House Appropriations defense subcommittee said in a report approved this week by the full committee as part of its defense bill for fiscal 2014. The problems on the USS Freedom, built by Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT), include seawater contamination and rust particles in lubrication components used by the main propulsion system. The ship was forced to return to port in Singapore for repairs after eight hours of sailing on May 21, before a visit to the ship by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on June 2."  (6/14/13)
Los Angeles Times: Struggling to take off: The troubled F-35 jet may not be combat-ready till 2015 - W.J. Hennigan, Ralph Vartabedian
“Far beyond the electronic security gates and razor-wire topped fences, Col. Rod Cregier surveys a team of technicians busily readying a lithe F-35 fighter jet for its next test flight. As the F-35 program director at the base, Cregier and his team play a crucial role in a nationwide military effort to get the high-tech jet ready for battle. After a decade of administrative problems, cost overruns and technical glitches, the F-35 is still not ready for action. The program has consistently come under political attack even though the military considers it crucial to the nation's defense needs. Cregier believes the program is finally on course and said he is convinced that the jet can successfully replace the military's aging fighter fleets — some 34 years old — though he does not downplay the significant challenges his team faces.”  (6/12/13)
Wired: The Secret WarJames Bamford
“Despite the sequestration, layoffs, and furloughs in the federal government, it’s a boom time for [General Keith] Alexander. In April, as part of its 2014 budget request, the Pentagon asked Congress for $4.7 billion for increased ‘cyberspace operations,’ nearly $1 billion more than the 2013 allocation. At the same time, budgets for the CIA and other intelligence agencies were cut by almost the same amount, $4.4 billion. A portion of the money going to Alexander will be used to create 13 cyberattack teams. What’s good for Alexander is good for the fortunes of the cyber-industrial complex, a burgeoning sector made up of many of the same defense contractors who grew rich supplying the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. With those conflicts now mostly in the rearview mirror, they are looking to Alexander as a kind of savior. After all, the US spends about $30 billion annually on cybersecurity goods and services.”  (6/12/13)
U.S. News and World Report: Let's Wise Up About Defense SpendingRyan Alexander
“Politicians and ordinary Americans across the political spectrum agree on the need for the federal government to provide for our common national security. But that consensus has allowed for defense and security spending to grow at an unsustainable rate. And since the defense budget accounts for more than half of the discretionary budget, it is simply no longer credible to call for reducing spending without including defense cuts. The good news is that the combination of budgetary pressures created by the sequester and the ramp down of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has opened up space for a new conversation on defense spending priorities. In a recent speech, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel acknowledged the need for resources to inform strategy – a principle which seems obvious but that has been overlooked for too long.”  (6/5/13)
Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments: Shaping America’s Future Military: Toward a New Force Planning Construct (6/13/13)