SUB NEEDS: Gen. C. Robert Kehler, chief of U.S. Strategic Command, tells Senate lawmakers the Ohio-class replacement submarine remains important, even though the 2013 budget request slipped the acquisition two years. But there is a risk, he told the Armed Services Committee March 12. As his submariners remind him, Kehler says, it is the number of cycles that affects service life, as harsh environment and repeated stresses take their toll. Sliding the schedule two years puts deliveries in the zone when the first older submarines must be retired.
It’s getting too late in the fiscal year for the Pentagon to ease the disruptive effects of sequestration, even if it is given flexibility in allocating cuts, according to top defense officials.
“We need the cloud of sequester and uncertainty dispelled,” acquisition chief Ashton Carter told the House Armed Services Committee Feb. 13. If uncertainty is merely pushed back, “it’s still pretty harmful,” he says.
The general representing the U.S. Marines in the nation’s next Quadrennial Defense Review says he will give priority to readiness when budgeting choices must be made.
Maj. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie, speaking at a recent Stimson Center event, emphasized that he puts the highest priority on readiness, over acquisition and end strength. He also advocates for forward presence, the only way to get truly immediate response, he says. It also buys time and decision space and its deterrent value is underestimated, he says.
The convergence of three U.S. budget showdowns in March is not the apocalypse, says a defense analyst, but it is a mess, will produce bad decisions, and carries the risks of creating costly contract problems for major programs and disruption and hardship on the Pentagon’s civilian employees for years to come.
In the end, the 2013 defense authorization bill kept pretty close the budget request, adding about 1% percent to the base budget for procurement and research and changing about 130 lines out of more than 1,600.
Some of the big plusses were early favorites for defense authorizers and appropriators in the House and Senate: the Israeli Cooperative Programs, advance procurement funding for EA-18G and restoring a second Virginia submarine buy in fiscal 2014.
Cyberwarfare, long-range strike and undersea systems all fared well in a recent budget exercise performed by a group of experts tasked with sketching a path forward for the Pentagon under a reduced top line.
Organized by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, the exercise assumed a replacement for sequestration that changed the implementation but not the goal. In making cuts, the participants could set priorities, and change the implementation slope, but had to reach the same spending target.
An information technology trade group foresees Pentagon spending declining about 3% in inflation-adjusted dollars during the next decade.
TechAmerica Foundation’s latest annual forecast, highlighted in an Oct. 16 Washington briefing, sees base spending following a gradual downward slope from $525 billion in fiscal 2013 to $506 billion in fiscal 2023, as measured in constant 2013 dollars. Current projections from Pentagon planners and the White House Office of Management and Budget project a slight upward slope to $553 billion in the same period.
The six-month stopgap funding bill Congress passed before leaving town upends Pentagon planning for nearly every line of the procurement and research budgets, essentially freezing billions in fiscal 2013 money unless a defense appropriations bill is passed.
If budget sequestration hits, the U.S. Defense Department will protect wartime funding first, driving higher cuts to the base budgets. And next, more than 2,000 account lines and their contracts will have to be scrutinized, according to Pentagon officials.
It’s not something the Pentagon wants to do, the department comptroller and four generals told the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) Sept. 20. They want to avoid it, not plan for it.
The U.S. Defense Department’s procurement of wheeled tactical vehicles (WTVs) has dropped sharply since fiscal 2008, leaving U.S. companies to seek international sales, which so far have not come close to filling the gap.
Three years after its launch, the U.S. government group drafting export-control reform measures has started publishing proposed rule changes and is about to deliver a unified set of export controls governing U.S. business.
Speaking Sept. 5 in Washington at the ComDef conference, officials from the State and Commerce departments and Defense Technology Security Administration (DTSA) reported on the progress and the challenges tackled.
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