Posts Tagged ‘Modernization’

Is Leon Panetta the Right Man to be Secretary of Defense?

Winslow Wheeler. TIME Battleland, 13 December, 2011.


Without the inclusion of war spending, the DOD base budget under the “Doomsday Mechanism” is no longer at or near its post-World War II high, but it is also not near any of the historic lows. In fact, it is roughly $38 billion above annual spending during the Cold War…

Gen. Odierno Breaks The Code On Why Weapons Cost So Much

Loren B. Thompson. Lexington Institute, 11 November 2011.


Gen. Odierno’s November 2 remarks indicate that he realizes it isn’t just contractors who drive up the cost of programs. The cost overruns are often baked in at the beginning by the baroque demands that the acquisition system imposes on developers. These demands result in long schedule delays, unaffordable unit costs, and weapons features that can’t meet the expectations of appropriators. More importantly, they slow the delivery of better combat systems to warfighters.

Panetta must fight four wars: Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, waste

editorial. Boston Globe, 30 June 2011.

When Leon Panetta takes the helm at the Defense Department tomorrow, he will be facing difficult choices about the US military efforts in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya. But an equally pressing — and potentially even more intractable — problem is the Pentagon’s budget and spending. Outgoing secretary Robert Gates was good at paying lip service to the need to control spending; he noted recently that “the United States should spend as much as necessary on national defense, but not one penny more.’’ But the department’s baseline budget has risen every year since Gates took over — from $450 billion to more than $550 billion four years later. This year alone, the Pentagon is seeking a 3.4 percent increase from its 2010 budget.

It’s not just the wars; they represent less than 30 percent of the Pentagon’s enormous budget request. In the context of other government spending, the Pentagon is a behemoth. For every $100 of government discretionary spending, over $30 goes to non-war defense expenditures. The scope is overwhelming; the need for more than piecemeal cuts of failed systems is urgent.

Gates recently claimed that the Pentagon has already cut $300 billion, but the math suggests otherwise. That money came from programs already scheduled to be terminated. The savings were simply put into other military priorities. After noting that the Navy’s 11 carrier battle groups were excessive, Gates refused to eliminate a single one.

Panetta will need to take a more disciplined and systemic look at the budget. There is no shortage of advice from influential think tanks and independent studies, including last year’s report of the Sustainable Defense Task Force, a bipartisan group convened by Representative Barney Frank. Their recommendations would trim $960 billion between 2011 and 2020, if only the Pentagon would act on them.

Cutting the number of deployed nuclear weapons by half — to 1,000 warheads — is consistent with a reduced emphasis on nuclear warfare and the efforts of arms control advocates. This move alone would save over $100 billion over 10 years. Reducing conventional forces by 50,000, which would still leave 100,000 personnel deployed in Europe and Asia, is more realistic force structure. Cancelling just a few systems that are neither cost-effective nor essential would save more. The MV-22 Osprey and Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle are long on trouble, and short on capability. In addition, the Congressional Budget Office and the Government Accountability Office both have proposed changes to support efforts, such as maintenance, supply, and infrastructure, that could save $100 billion in the next decade.

All this could be accomplished without compromising national security. Panetta needs to push back on the political forces that claim any cuts make the nation vulnerable to various enemies. The deficit is a much greater security risk.

Unfortunately, the Pentagon remains the largest federal agency that simply cannot pass an independent auditor test; when subjected to the normal bookkeeping procedures, it cannot, with any accuracy, track spending, fraud, waste, or redundancy. It has given itself a September 2017 deadline for audit “readiness.’’ That’s not soon enough. Panetta, who, as the former head of the Office of Management and Budget, has a reputation as a rigorous fighter for fiscal discipline. He will need to get the Pentagon’s house in order on day one.

Robert Gates’ disappointing legacy

Melvin Goodman. Baltimore Sun, 29 June 2011.


In his recent lectures, Mr. Gates warned against any freeze in defense spending, leaving Mr. Panetta to deal with weapons systems and military missions that the United States can no longer afford. As the former director of the Office of Management and Budget, Mr. Panetta presumably understands that the United States, with less than 25 percent of the world’s economic output and more than 50 percent of the world’s military expenditures, will have to curtail certain weapons and missions. The defense budget has grown more than 50 percent in the past 10 years and now exceeds the pace of spending of the Cold War era, including the wars in Korea and Vietnam as well as the peacetime buildup of President Ronald Reagan.

A reexamination of current troop deployments must include the tens of thousands of troops in Europe and Asia more than six decades after the end of World War II; hundreds of bases and facilities the world over; and the excessive willingness to project power in areas such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, where vital national interests are not at stake.

Steps Toward Defense Budget Discipline

Steps Toward Defense Budget Discipline, a Hill briefing sponsored by Taxpayers for Common Sense and the Project on Defense Alternatives, 7 June 2011, video by the Stimson Center. Featuring: Amy Belasco, Carl Conetta, Benjamin Friedman, Matthew Leatherman, Laura Peterson and Winslow Wheeler.

News Analysis: Obama’s Proposed $400 billion Security Spending Cut

On Wednesday April 13th 2001, President Obama announced an initiative to roll back planned security spending by $400 billion over the next 12 years. The nature of these “savings” is not yet clear. Nor is it clear how much will be subtracted from the Pentagon’s spending plans.

Nonetheless, Secretary Gates and the Chiefs are not pleased and have begun to make noise about risks to security. Apparently, they were not briefed on the proposal until Tuesday.

Part of the initiative is to begin a “fundamental review of America’s missions, capabilities, and our role in a changing world.” What and how much is subtracted from the Pentagon will depend on this review. Notably, the United States just completed a Quadrennial Defense Review last year. What the President proposes is some sort of “second look.” The President, Secretary Gates, and the service chiefs will be the prime movers of this process. How deep their “second look” will go is unclear. And it seems battle lines are already being drawn.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Pentagon spokesperson Geoff Morrell said the review would likely affect the 2013 budget. It will not be ready by June, when congressional debate of the 2012 budget commences.

How open will the review process be? We don’t yet know. But the experience of recent defense reviews is not encouraging. Still we should welcome this first step and strive to open up the process. The need for a rethinking our defense strategy and posture was emphasized in the 2010 report of the Sustainable Defense Task Force:

[I]n order to ensure significant savings, we must change how we produce military power and the ways in which we put it to use. Significant savings may depend on our willingness to:

    Rethink our national security commitments and goals to ensure they focus clearly on what concerns us the most;
    Reset our national security strategy so that it reflects a cost-effective balance among the security instruments at our disposal and uses those instruments in cost-effective ways; and
    Reform our system of producing defense assets so it.

News links on President Obama’s proposed rollback in planned security spending, his call for a strategic review, and the Pentagon’s reaction:

DOD: Finding More Savings In Defense Budget Means Nixing Missions. Christopher J. Castelli. Inside Defense, 13 April 2011.

Obama Calls for Sweeping Review of U.S. Military Strategy. Sandra Erwin. National Defense, 13 April 2011.

Pentagon warns on big defense cuts. Missy Ryan and Jim Wolf. Reuters, 13 April 2011.

Defence chief warns against planned cuts. Daniel Dombey and James Politi. Financial Times, 14 April 2011.

Events frequently overtake long-term Pentagon planning. Megan Scully. Government Executive, 14 April 2011.

Joint Strike Fighter Delayed? Not a Big Deal for the U.S. Navy

Sandra Erwin. National Defense Magazine, 24 November 2010.


An AESA equipped Super Hornet is “generation four-and-a-half,” says [Michael “Ponch” Garcia, a reserve Navy pilot and manager of business development at Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems]. “All the sensors are fifth generation. You won’t have super cruise. You won’t have 360 stealth. You lose that. But you’re getting it for half the price.”

Deficit-Buster Proposals Won’t Work Without Changes in U.S. Defense Strategy

Sandra Erwin. National Defense Magazine, 22 November 2010.


“The Defense Department’s biggest weakness is its budget strategy: the absence of strategic choice,” says Gordon Adams, American University professor who authored the defense recommendations in the Domenici-Rivlin proposal that was presented by former Senate Budget Committee Chairman Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) and White House Budget Director under Clinton, Alice Rivlin.

Cutting the defense budget should not be about doing the same with less, Adams says. The reaction to the Simpson-Bowles report, which takes aim at many big-ticket weapon programs and calls for work force reductions, was predictable. Every targeted program or agency, as was seen recently with U.S. Joint Forces Command, is making a case that it is essential to national security, and its supporters already are mobilizing lobbyists and advocacy groups.

The smarter approach would be for the Obama administration and Congress to agree to a scaled-back military strategy, says Adams. “At the end of the day, it’s about policy makers restraining their impulse to use the military in the reckless way it’s been used in the past 20 years,” he says.