Saturday, January 31, 2009

Hard Choices on Weapons Systems

White Asks During Free for All Friday:

"Gates Says ‘Hard Choices’ Needed on Weapons Spending (Update1)

Jan. 26 (Bloomberg) -- Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the Obama administration must make “hard choices” on weapons spending that could include targeting specific programs, according to a draft of his testimony tomorrow to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“Any changes” Congress makes to the 2010 budget “should avoid across-the-board adjustments, which inefficiently extend all programs,” pushing out schedules and increasing costs, Gates said in his prepared comments on weapons acquisition.

“Five programs account for half of total cost growth in weapons spending,” Gates said. These programs are Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter; Boeing Co.’s Future Combat Systems; Virginia Class attack submarines built by General Dynamics Corp. and Northrop Grumman Corp.; the Pentagon’s primary satellite-launch program, a joint effort of Lockheed and Boeing; and a program to destroy the U.S. stockpile of chemical weapons which includes a number of defense contractors.

I would be nervous if my livelihood depended on any of the first four of five programs mentioned. The fifth has no chance of failing under this Congress.


Just saw yesterday that the OMB targets sent to DoD for FY10 defense budget deviate in a big way from POM10. To those who don't speak Pentagon, this means that the new President's budget shop has told the Pentagon to go back to the drawing board and find billions of dollars in savings to bring down defense spending.

Lots of waste in the defense budget, no doubt. And any article like this one is sure to stir up Mudge's hornets nest...but let's go on anyway.

We're getting ready to spend $819B on a stimulus package that stimulates very little, at the same time we're looking to cut billions from the defense budget. From where will those cuts come? Not operations and maintenance for our troops in the any large extent. No, the cuts will come from acquisition. Big programs will be canceled and planned new starts won't start. What does this mean? It means a loss of capability that at some point was validated by uniformed leadership to be essential to our fighting forces, and it means the loss of jobs. That's right..every weapons system that gets axed represents thousands of people on production lines, engineers, designers, etc.

Now Mudge, I'm not saying there isn't waste, and I'm not saying that the defense industry cannot get leaner and do better. But I am saying that the money spent on systems like those mentioned in the article above are all about ECONOMIC stimulation, and by that I mean good, high paying, American jobs. Spend $819B on stimulus and then cancel LCS? Well, there goes thousands of jobs, added unemployment benefits, loss of tax revenue, etc.

Defense spending is a big fat target. But what made cutting defense easy in the 90's was that the rest of the economy was HUMMING. Now, defense is an anchor and one of the few places in the larger economy where significant contraction hasn't happened.


Anonymous said...

As this blog is a little top-heavy wrt Navy input (and that's not a bad thing, as my sea chanty repertoire has improved immensely), I thought I'd add a little Army perspective to this topic, coming recently from the budget world of Army G8 (and darn glad to be out of it).
Planning assumption #1 that went into the Army budget (POM) build: Senator Obama would win the election. We didn't do any red state/blue state hyper-analysis, just a BOGSAT (Bunch Of Guys Sitting Around Table) and best guess. We should have gone on the networks, but I digress...
We developed our budgets accordingly, looking across programs that would maintain key congressional support after the election (ie, budget cuts not likely to happen in Democrat-held states and districts) vs. those where the congressional district was at risk (such as some big-ticket BAE programs in Oklahoma -- 70% voted for McCain, probably first to get the budget axe).
With a tip of the hat to the Army Staff Program Analysis and Evaluation (a group who has the biggest say in how much a program gets cut, and who normally don't get a "tip of the hat" -- more like "tip of my boot"), planned program funding was pared back in many programs, especially those in Rebuplican-held districts. Lots of wailing and gnashing of teeth --it was a budget drill without the novicane -- but we made significant cuts, ready to present to the tithing dish we figured was going to be passed to DoD from a new administration.
We may have been politically incorrect in basing our funding assumptions on election results, but at least we were proactive. Just hope the numbers we came up with match what the administration will cut. The Army has probably already primed the pumps with OMB with its proposed budget cuts -- looking mighty magnanimous in the process. It helps that the CJCS calls the Army, "the Center of Gravity for DoD."
Yep, Future Combat Systems (FCS) is on the list. Had to be. Couldn't have a list that didn't include all the Services. But FCS design, development, procurement, and testing spans all 50 states. Some token $$ will be cut, but FCS will survive.
Pentagon programs and budgets are hugely complicated, especially when you look at the impact on districts, how current ops are funded, and how the cottage industry of programs developed and funded on GWOT dollars has sprung-up and now subsist solely on supplemental funding. Sec Gates hasn't had to make the tough budget decisions during his tenure -- mostly force-structure issues -- and the new crew of hopefuls coming in will soon learn what it's like when you try to cut funding of a program that provides the primary sourse of employment in a congressional district.
President Obama was elected on "Change You Can Believe In." It will be great sport to see the that change attempt brought to the Pentagon.

Ace said...

Air Force perspective: someone please consider killing the F-35 before it ruins everything. I have a win/win plan for how to do it, but killing the F-35 must be on the table.

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