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Tight budget threatens defense programs

By DAVID ALEXANDER
May 19, 2011

F/A-18F Super Hornets assigned to Carrier Air Wing One (CVW-1) launch from the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise in the Red Sea in this U.S. Navy handout photo dated March 17, 2011. (U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Jared M. King)

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Wednesday that all military programs were on the table — including nuclear arms and the joint strike fighter — as the Pentagon tries to meet the president’s goal of cutting $400 billion in spending over 12 years.

“If the political leadership of this country decides that it must reduce the investment in defense by hundreds of billions of dollars, then I don’t think we can afford to have anything that’s off the table,” Gates told a Pentagon news conference.

The defense secretary, who leaves office at the end of June, said he opposed across-the-board defense cuts that would hollow out the military force while leaving the current force structure intact.

President Barack Obama set a goal last month of holding national security spending below the rate of inflation for the next 12 years, a move that would save about $400 billion, mainly from Defense Department budgets.

The move came as Republicans and Democrats in Congress grapple with the country’s deficit, running about $1.4 trillion this fiscal year that ends September 30, and the national debt, which is over 90 percent of GDP.

Gates said Obama had made it clear the Pentagon should not make specific budget decisions before conducting a fundamental review of America’s military missions, capabilities and global security role.

“The new comprehensive review will ensure that future spending decisions are focused on strategy and risks and are not simply a math and accounting exercise,” Gates said.

MILITARY CUTS VS ADDED RISK

“This process must be about identifying options for the president and the Congress, where the nation is willing to accept risk in exchange for reduced investment in the Department of Defense,” he said.

The United States continues to prepare and arm for major battles like those fought in World War Two, even though conflicts in the foreseeable future are more likely to require the kind of light, mobile force used in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Gates wants political leaders to make conscious strategic choices about what kinds of programs they are willing to sacrifice, and in turn what military risks they are willing to accept, to implement the budget cuts.

Asked to what extent the F-35 joint strike fighter would be affected by the cutbacks, Gates said “the country needs the F-35″ but “obviously, if you’re going to change strategies or missions, that has implications for the amount of equipment you buy.”

“I would expect that to apply across the board, not just to the F-35,” he added.

The Lockheed Martin F-35 is a so-called “fifth-generation” fighter equipped with radar-evading stealth technologies that is meant to replace a range of fighters from different service branches.

The plane is the military’s priciest current acquisition, with a projected cost of more than $283 billion. The program’s projected cost has risen substantially in recent years, and any cuts in planned purchases by the Pentagon would drive unit costs higher.

“Here’s where … the rubber meets the road on this,” Gates said. “We must buy a fifth-generation fighter. We must replace the ballistic missile submarines toward the end of this decade.”

“So the point is there are some significant new investments that must be made,” Gates said. “How do you pay for that, in the context that we’re talking about? Those are the kinds of hard choices that I want to surface and have people address.”

Gates also declined to rule out eliminating one leg of the nuclear triad as a means of cost savings. The United States maintains missiles, submarines and aircraft capable of carrying nuclear weapons. Eliminating one of those systems, which need to be replaced or upgraded, could save billions of dollars.

Gates said all potential cuts had to be on the table so political leaders can make strategic choices rather than fall back on political expedient across-the-board cuts.

“The easiest thing is to say, ‘Cut defense by X percent,'” he added. “And I think that would be the most dangerous approach of all.”

Copyright © 2011 The Associated Press

5 Responses to Tight budget threatens defense programs

  1. b mcclellan

    May 19, 2011 at 8:25 pm

    Global security role ?
    Political leaders fall back by X percent ?
    What happened to run what ya brung, chrome won’t take ya home ?

    Fire the military contractors, conscript all before it’s too late, top to bottom.
    People of a like-mind make pretty good armies..

    But then originates hunger , perchance, continuance of the dream boldly.

    • woody188

      May 19, 2011 at 10:42 pm

      I had the same double take on the global security role. If one nation is to provide global security, then the globe can start picking up the tab.

      • Carl Nemo

        May 19, 2011 at 11:24 pm

        Right now there’s a plan to sneak through a provision in the upcoming “Defense Authorization Bill” to give the President unchallenged authority to use our military forces anywhere and everywhere worldwide in order to fight ‘terrorism’. Of course this is the MIC and their ‘running dog’ politicians’ wet dream come true in terms of shaking down the American people until the 12th of forever; ie, ‘make work’ for our military forces that have evidently become a bastion of our now dead economy which has one of the lowest growth rates on the planet at about 1.8% per annum. We’ve got guns along with supplied aggression, but no real jobs for anyone.

        It was added to the bill by Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), and it could become the single biggest ceding of unchecked war authority to the executive branch in modern American history.

        Outrageously so, there have been no hearings on this worldwide war legislation, nor has its necessity been explained by Rep. Buck McKeon or anyone else in Congress. it’s simply another ‘sneak through’ add-on that will bypass the Constitution and give not only this President, but those in the future unchallenged authority to wage war whenever and whereever on planet earth.

        I’ve contacted my Congressional District rep on the matter, but knowing that the House is controlled by the ‘rethugs’ it won’t surprise me in the least if this add-on makes it through with the overall passage of the bill.

        These tactics are now typical when it comes to our Congress, now having simply degenerated into a hand-clapping, regime friendly ‘politburo’.

        I urge readers to get motivated and to contact their Congressional reps and demand this ‘stealth’ add-on be stripped from the bill. We’re now in Libya. What’s next on their agenda? This nation is being gutted by out of control defense spending along with our involvement with endless engineered ‘zero sum’ wars for profit.

        https://secure.aclu.org/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=3195&s_sub110511_AUMF

        Note: I’m an ACLU member. The link provides a handy ‘one-stop’ shopping way to protest this unconstitutional add-on provision. Contact your reps now.

        Carl Nemo **==

        • woody188

          May 19, 2011 at 11:39 pm

          I hope you sent a check from your tax shelter corporation with your letter. That’s the only way to get their attention. Unlimited free speech via corporate representation. We used to call that graft.

          • Carl Nemo

            May 20, 2011 at 12:00 am

            I sent an email, snail mail and have called Congresswoman Herrera’a office. I’m hoping readers that might run across my link will use it’s simple ACLU supplied format to contact their respective Congressperson too, unless they believe this what America, now seemingly AmeriKa an emergent ‘banana republic’ is all about.

            Good thoughts Woody about sending correspondence under a corporate letterhead, especially if the name can be linked to some fat contributions.

            My last Congressional Rep was Brian Baird (Dem 3rd District) Washington State, now we have a Republican, Jaime Herrera who went graduated from one of our local area high schools.

            http://herrerabeutler.house.gov/Biography/

            My wife and I registered as Independents. We were never enthused with Baird’s votes so with Herrera the new rep on the block, hopefully some common sense will prevail, but generally speaking Republicans are acting in seemingly a ‘brain-dead’ lockstep fashion.

            The only thing that’s going to stop this endless dog and pony show of ‘empire run amok’ is fiscal insolvency. We have to borrow money to wage war. So if we want to continue doing so, then both short and long term rates are headed upward and when the ‘cheap rate’ bubble bursts, rates are going to become a moonshot. It’s going to become very expensive to keep the MIC and their running dog’s in Congress afloat.

            Carl Nemo **==