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April 06, 2009

Here Come The Defense Program Cuts*

It's going to take awhile to parse this all and Congress still has to weigh in but we are getting our first look at the Obama administration's defense priorities.

(Defense Secretary Bob) Gates said his $534 billion budget proposal represents a "fundamental overhaul" in defense acquisition and reflects a shift in priorities from fighting conventional wars to the newer threats U.S. forces face from insurgents in places such as Afghanistan.

The department must ensure it has the right programs and money to "fight the wars we are in today and the scenarios we are most likely to face in the years to come, while at the same time providing a hedge against other risks," Gates said as he revealed details of his budget for the next fiscal year.

...Production of the F-22 fighter jet, which cost $140 million apiece, would be halted at 187. Plans to build a new helicopter for the president and a helicopter to rescue downed pilots would be canceled. A new communications satellite would be scrapped and the program for a new Air Force transport plane would be ended.

Some of the Pentagon's most expensive programs would also be scaled back. The Army's $160 billion Future Combat Systems modernization program would lose its armored vehicles. Plans to build a shield to defend against missile attacks by rogue states would also be scaled back.

Yet some programs would grow. Gates proposed speeding up production of the F-35 fighter jet, which could end up costing $1 trillion to manufacture and maintain 2,443 planes. The military would buy more speedy ships that can operate close in to land. And more money would be spent outfitting special forces troops that can hunt down insurgents.

Closing Velocity has some information on the missile defense cuts.

Expect more details soon, especially when it comes to the Navy and its shipbuilding plans, which are problematic to say the least.

In reality these budgets numbers shouldn't be looked at in isolation. DoD is going to be undertaking a Quadrennial Defense Review this year and balancing resources with strategy is important. Remember Rumsfeld made a lot of waves (and enemies) by eliminating outdated systems such as the Crusader artillery system before 9/11 so cutting big dollar programs isn't just an Obama thing (I imagine that would have been renamed had it survived).

Gates is trying to balance the force to face current challenges with the resources he has and F-22's and such don't help in Afghanistan. The problem is, no one really knows what's next. Those Raptors could come in handy some day.

That said, if he can do something about the procurement system to make it more responsive and effective (think the Navy's DD(x) and the Air Force's tanker acquisition problems), that would be huge. Of course, the odds of that happening aren't great, are they?


*XBradTC points out in the comments that the defense budget is going up overall. These are program cuts. I updated the headline to reflect that. Smart military blog and all. Check out his site for some further thoughts.


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posted by DrewM. at 02:05 PM

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