A rapidly broadening rift between the Obama administration and Congress over defense acquisition spending can safely be predicted, says a new study.
Meanwhile, a three way battle – between senior Pentagon civilians, Congress and the Air Force -- over how many F-22 Raptors the service requires is triggering some nasty infighting as the White House turnover nears.
Last week the Defense Secretary staff told Air Force planners not to talk to congressional staffers and to work only through the offices of Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England and acquisition chief John Young.
Insiders on Capitol Hill contend that the Defense Department has been and is continuing to withhold F-22 funds -- in defiance of the law and intent of Congress -- in an attempt to punish the Air Force. England is still angry about the service’s success in getting Congress to approve long-lead funding for 20 more aircraft which would bring the service's total to 203 stealthy fighters. However, OSD has released funds for only four aircraft which brought howls from the aerospace analysts that it is too few aircraft to avoid a shutdown of production between administrations.
The U.S. Air Force’s new chief of staff, Gen. Norton Schwartz is soon supposed to tell the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Carl Levin (D-Mich) how many F-22’s the service requires beyond the 183 that are already in the budget.
Schwartz’s budgeteers and planners are expected to recommend a force of 250-275, a cut of over 100 aircraft from the USAF’s current requirement of 381. Young points out that there is no money in the Air Force's budget plans for Fiscal 2010 for F-22s. Neither Congress nor the Defense Secretary want to keep funding F-22 and C-17 production through supplemental defense budgets.
“John is stuck taking direction from England, which I think he agrees with in this case, unlike with the alternative engine for the F-35 [which England attempted to kill],” says a Washington-based official with insight into the bloody political battle. “Plus John has people around him who have their own agenda or are not competent. They had John believing that the numbers being used by Lockheed and the Air Force late last week were from a RAND study on F-22 that has nothing to do with the current circumstances.
“I don’t know where all the [Defense] money is going to come from,” he says. “But at least with the F-22 we know what we are getting and have some grasp of the cost.”
A new study from the Center for Strategic & International Studies – whose CEO, John Hamre, has been mentioned as a possible candidate for President-elect Barack Obama’s Defense Secretary – contends that war costs, manpower costs, underfunded operations and procurement crises in every service will force the new administration to reshape almost every aspect of current defense plans, programs and budgets.
Obama will be faced with contracts worth $70 billion (Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter, Transformational Communications Satellite, Combat Search and Rescue Helicopter and a new tanker aircraft) that would be added to current procurement and force modernization plans that total over $183 billion in the Fiscal 2009 defense budget, say Anthony Cordesman and Hans Kaeser, authors of “Defense Procurement by Paralysis.”
They predict the new President will have to make unpopular (especially with Congress) cuts, possibly cancelling programs that have already absorbed billions in development spending. Because of the economic crisis and a doctrinal rift in the Pentagon (on whether to focus on current or future wars and manpower or technology), the study also predicts a spike in Congressional resistance to the new administration’s policies.
“Reshaping an affordable and effective procurement program may well take at least the full term of the next president and involve major program cancellations and further hardship for the defense industry,” the authors write.